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Board rules chickens and goats may stay at Calvert home


Prince Frederick, MD - Ten chickens and five goats may remain at a Huntingtown residence, thanks to a ruling rendered Thursday, March 7 by the Calvert County Board of Appeals (BOA). The board unanimously granted a special exception to the home’s occupant to keep the farm animals at the residence, even though the property, located in a Rural Community District, is less than three acres in size. The applicant, Aaron Coley, told the panel his 6-year-old daughter, who is now involved in the county’s 4-H program, is benefitting from having animals at the home.

The hens and goats are very educational for her,” Coley stated in a letter to the BOA. “She learns communication. Since the animals cannot talk back verbally, she will learn to read body language which can then carry over to human interactions as well. Among this she will learn empathy, nurturing skills. confidence and resilience to change. Using the chickens, we can donate the eggs to local pantries or family members who are in need. Using the goats, we can donate goat's milk to help fellow farmers. This helps her learn to give back where you live.”

Coley explained that the family belongs to Southern Maryland Backyard Chickens, a local group which he explained provides support and advice to residents who wish to keep a small number of hens in urban/suburban backyards as pets and for purposes of household egg-gathering.

During the hearing, Coley admitted he was unaware that a special exception was needed from the board until a utility worker who was in his neighborhood one day pointed it out. The family had already set up the home operation in a fashion that meets with agriculture standards. “We provide our chickens and goats with the proper shelter at all times,” he stated. “The chickens have a sturdy coop, which is kept well away from the front property line, and our goats have their own shed which is well hidden from the road. In the summer, we set up fans to help keep them all cool, and in the winter, we keep a heat lamp in their coop and house. They have a healthy balanced diet, with constant access to water. All of our chickens are also registered with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.”

“This is quite a lot of animals for so few acres,” said BOA Chair Susie Hance-Wells. Board members indicated concerns about breeding and waste management. Coley had wanted to include a rooster among the fowl. None of the seven adjoining property owners have indicated objections to this plan. However, the BOA has set a precedent to deny roosters for similar special exceptions in the Rural Community District. Coley explained that the droppings of the chickens and goats either go into a compost pile or are used as garden fertilizer. His neighbors have also been told they may remove the waste for their own garden and farm fertilization needs. As a condition for approval, the BOA told Coley the animal waste needed to be managed in a way that would avoid nutrient runoff. In addition to the rooster ban, the board also granted the exception on the condition that the goats are not bred and their population remains at five.

Nationwide, Backyard Chickens has almost 400,000 members. According to TheAllstate Blog, raising goats in urban and suburban settings is also on the rise. In a 2014 article printed in the blog, author Jennie P. Grant stated that most urban farmers keeping goats “are in it for the milk. The American Dairy Goat Association stated that goats yield “nutritious milk” that can be used for drinking, baking, cooking or even making ice cream. The blog also reported that there is a high consumer demand for goat meat and goat hair produces mohair and cashmere. One myth debunked by TheAllstate Blog story is that “goats aren’t going to replace your lawn mower.” The story also points out that goats are a bit dramatic and prone to mood swings.

To learn more about the pluses and minuses of goat ownership on non-agriculture properties, visit the web site Living Homegrown ® here.

You can access the Southern Maryland Backyard Chickens’ Facebook page here

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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