TAYLOR MILL, Ky. — Taylor Mill resident Darrell Back started raising chickens last year. He purchased a rooster, Charlie, to watch over his three hens. At the time, he found no laws prohibiting his keeping of the hens or the rooster.
He said he went about the year without incident. But in July 2022, he received unwelcome news from the city: The hens could stay but Charlie had to go.
It turns out that in May of 2022, the city had passed a law regulating the keeping of chickens and prohibiting roosters altogether within the city limits. Back was fined $100 and given 10 days to find a new home for his rooster.
Someone to watch over them
Back said his chickens have grown to rely on Charlie.
“My biggest concern right now, the hens are so used to that rooster,” Back said. “He watches out for the hawks in the area while they wander off and do their own thing. If I take my rooster away they aren’t going to be watching the skies, they are so used to him being there.”
He also said he did not feel it was fair to have to give up the bird when it had been, he believes, legal to have him for close to a year. He has retained a lawyer to fight to keep Charlie.
His lawyer, attorney Zachary Smith, sent a letter to the city making the argument that the rooster was a permitted use before the ordinance was passed and should be allowed to continue as a nonconforming use. He pointed to KRS 100.253 that states “the lawful use of a building or premises existing at the time of the adoption of any zoning regulations affecting it may be continued even though such use does not conform to the provisions of such regulations.”
A family member who lives in a rural area said they might be able to take Charlie if Back is forced to let him go, but Back noted that he is not asking for a long period of time and said he hoped he could persuade the city to let him keep Charlie a bit longer.
“I don’t honestly feel I should have to get rid of him because there was not a law against it when I got him,” Back said. “I feel that’s a little unfair. I understand they passed the law, and now I can’t have him anymore. But I feel I should be able to keep mine until he passes.”
Roosters do not have a long life span — they usually live between 4 and 8 years on average — and Charlie is in his second year.
The rooster ordinance
Taylor Mill City Administrator Brian Haney said the city had long had an ordinance prohibiting roosters, but a change in what ordinances were in place created an inadvertent and unintended opening that allowed the rooster in 2021.
“The city had always had an anti-rooster ordinance as well as an interlocal agreement with the county. People were allowed chickens but they were not allowed a rooster,” he explained. “Then in 2020, the county animal control asked us to adopt their countywide ordinance so there would be uniformity in how they would administrate everything in each individual city.”
The city agreed, he said, but did not realize at the time that Kenton County’s animal control ordinances did not address the keeping of chickens, roosters or any other fowl.
“When we adopted their ordinance, it superseded ours,” Haney said. “Basically, got rid of ours. The county’s new ordinance doesn’t address chickens at all. Once we realized that, and people were starting to complain, we had to go back and reinstitute a whole new ordinance to say yes, you are allowed chickens under these conditions but absolutely no roosters.”
The city passed the new ordinance in May of this year. It allows for up to six chickens for personal use and sets the conditions and placement of coops, but it outright prohibits roosters.
Back is waiting for the city’s response to his letter. In the meantime, Charlie is on the job keeping watch over his angels.
This story was originally published on Linknky.com, a media partner of WCPO.com.