FLORENCE, Ky. -- The city told her to go to the county. On Tuesday night, a county official sent her back to the city. Julie Hengehold is tired of ruffling feathers but said she won't stop fighting to keep her family's pet chickens on their property.
"Right now, we're just sitting in limbo, hoping and praying that, on some slim chance, the state court of appeals takes the case," she said. "I don't know where else to go but to look to you all and say, ‘Somebody, help.'"
The city of Florence's zoning ordinances forbid residents from keeping livestock or "exotic pets" in suburban spaces. "Domestic birds," on the other hand, are legal household pets. To which category do pet chickens belong?
The question is a hot potato that's been bouncing between city and county agencies for more than a year, but to Hengehold, the answer is simple. Her chickens have names, know tricks and play with her 10 children; they live on green space the family has owned for over 20 years.
They also aren't suited for life on a farm if authorities rule against them, she said. She worries that chickens hand-raised by humans and treated ilke pets would not successfully adapt to a natural social structure and could even be attacked by other, farm-raised birds if she attempted to rehome them.
"(The city has) threatened to come and take the chickens and, of course, they'll have them put down," she said. "It's a lot of stress when you've had an animal for eight years and someone wants to come and kill them."
The Hengeholds aren't the only chicken owners who find themselves suspended in a poultry purgatory. Florence resident Nathan Henderson and Wyoming resident Johnny Van Stein said they'd experienced similar problems while keeping pet chickens.
Gary Moore, the Boone County Fiscal Court judge executive who sent Hengehold back to the city Tuesday, said he simply didn't see the issue as one within his court's jurisdiction.
Hengehold said she is willing to leave her home to find a place where her family can keep the birds in peace, but she doesn't want to. She hopes the Kentucky Court of Appeals will rule in her favor.