Raise the Roost

By the time you read this, your neighbors may be well on the way to adopting a new pet — one that doubles as a food source.

As of press time, Cary is expected to approve legislation allowing families to keep up to six backyard hens, following years of debate. Town Council action is slated for early August.

Richard Kaydos-Daniels tends his family’s backyard chicken coop. The coop was among those featured on the 2012 Tour D’Coop, a showcase of urban chicken coops in Raleigh.

What will it be like living next door to chickens? Not much different, say Neely and Richard Kaydos-Daniels. The Raleigh couple showcased their backyard coop as part of the 2012 Tour D’Coop, an annual event that allows chicken lovers and skeptics alike to see how local families are integrating coops into their yards.

“Our neighbors didn’t even know we had chickens until they saw the sign in our front yard,” Neely said. With a lot size of 0.31 acres, they don’t particularly keep their five chickens under wraps, even frequently letting them out of the coop to roam the fenced-in yard.
“We had a lot of people come from Cary who were very interested in chickens or who want to have chickens,” Neely said. “We think everyone should have chickens.”

Their homemade coop — designed and built by Richard, who is a structural engineer — mirrors the aesthetics of their home. Not all would-be chicken owners share his design abilities, he realizes. “There are a lot of different kinds of coops, from those made from recycled materials to purchased,” he said.

Smell, noise and health risks are top of mind for those who oppose Cary’s chicken laws. “We take about 10 minutes on Sundays to clean up the coop,” Neely noted. Beyond adding new bedding every few months, they say the maintenance is very low to prevent those issues. As an infectious disease epidemiologist, she knows it’s important to monitor the hens for any flulike symptoms to prevent any health issues.

Cary’s Mayor Harold Weinbrecht has long been on the opposing side of the chicken debate. “While I applaud those that want to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves I do not believe an urban/suburban area, especially one that is known for its beautiful neighborhoods like Cary, is the place for chickens,” he said in an April blog post that cited his standard response to the question of backyard chickens.

Neely Kaydos-Daniels says, "We think everyone should have chickens."

As much as the Kaydos-Daniels family loves their flock — Plymouth Rock hens Jovie, Caroline, Peep, Brownie and Dagmar — they can’t deny that there are a few drawbacks to the birds.

“They do eat our flowers. That’s one downside,” Neely said with a laugh. Though Richard noted sometimes the chickens’ eating habits can help dispose of leftovers: “Last week we gave them spaghetti,” he said.

“We only expect them to lay eggs for about five years, but they can live much longer,” Neely continued. Cary’s limit of six hens would mean owners would have to get rid of birds past their egg-laying days in order to stay at maximum production — which is somewhere around one egg per day per hen.

“We wanted our daughters to know where food comes from,” Richard said. Now Sylvia, 7, and Lucy, 4, are tasked with collecting eggs from the hens each day. Even the family’s two dogs don’t seem to mind, peacefully sharing the yard as the birds peck through the grass.

The Triangle has many resources for those looking to learn more about chickens. Chicken expert Bob Davis offers his Chicken Keeping 101 course typically twice per year on the N.C. State University campus, discussing proper care, health issues and more.

Sumner-Byrd Farm, a home-based chicken farm in Holly Springs, raises a dozen varieties of chickens for home use. They also sell a variety of nesting box options to assist with setting up home coops.

And Cary Chickens, established by husband and wife team Alissa and Michael Manfre when they moved to Cary in 2008 and learned hens were prohibited, seeks to educate the community on the benefits of backyard chickens while dispelling myths and concerns about them becoming a nuisance.

One fact emphasized in any discussion of backyard chickens is that the impending laws would not supersede homeowners association rules or other neighborhood covenants. All coops would be required to be at least 10 feet away from property lines, and would be applicable to single-family detached homes with lot size of 6,000 square feet or larger.

For more information on the status of backyard chickens in Cary, see carychickens.com, sumner-byrdfarm.com and tourdcoop.com.

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