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What the cluck? Florence family fighting to keep pet chickens after city says they're illegal

Posted at 11:28 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 01:19:14-04

FLORENCE, Ky. -- Julie Hengehold had been keeping pet chickens on her property for more than five years before the City of Florence cited her for having them. According to city officials, the small flock violates zoning ordinances that bar suburban residents from keeping livestock or "exotic pets."

Hengehold said she thinks it's all fowl play.

"They're not hurting anything," she said. "If you were having a whole big chicken farm in your back yard or something, that would be one thing, but we have almost two acres, and most of our yard is nothing but green space."

The Hengehold family's chickens have names, know tricks and sit on rafts to enjoy the pool, she added. Her 10 children love them, and the chickens don't know any life other than the one they live on her property.

"Before we got the chickens I consulted multiple attorneys and everyone looked at the zoning and the city ordinances, the animal ordinances, and said 'Good to go,' you know? ‘It's fine,'" she said. 

However, representatives of the city say the issue is clear-cut: Chickens shouldn't be raised in an urban space. The Hengeholds have pleaded their case before the code board, district court and circuit court, and they hope the Kentucky Court of Appeals will take their side.

If not, Hengehold said she isn't sure what she will do. Her chickens aren't equipped to live on a farm, and she worries they would be attacked by the other birds if they tried.

"We would have to either move or they would have to be put down," she said. "It would not be right for them to be eaten alive."