It’s More Than Just Chickens- It’s about feeding my family

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It's More Than Just Chickens- It's about feeding my family

 

It’s More Than Just Chickens – It’s about feeding my family

People across the country are fighting for the right to provide for their families with gardens and small backyard livestock. My family is one of those affected, and the new laws are taking the food off my children’s plates. This is our story.

It’s More Than Just Chickens- Starting From Nothing

Almost two decades ago I was a single mom. I worked full time, and I was homeless. Social Services said I made too much money to qualify for food stamps or government assistance.

Desperate to feed my family, I went to a church for a box of food. I looked inside and saw cookies, pastries, juice mix, moldy bread, and doughnuts. I knew I should be grateful, but just because I was poor did not mean my family didn’t deserve to eat healthy food. I vowed to never be in that situation again and to help others like me if I was ever allowed the opportunity to.

I continued to work hard (sometimes three jobs at a time), got my own house, started my own general contracting business, and was living the American Dream.

Then the recession hit, and no one wanted their house worked on. I was back in the same position where I couldn’t afford to feed my family and needed help. It is a humbling experience – you lose all pride and self-worth, and it feels like the system tries to punish you when you work to remove yourself from dependency.

It’s More Than Just Chickens- Where We Are Now

We continue to live paycheck to paycheck, but our contracting business has bounced back. We live debt free and own a non-profit business that provides to those in need in our community with fresh produce. Between donations and sales, I am blessed to help provide food for over 150 of our friends and neighbors. We work hard to keep our expenses low and live a more sustainable life.

Our home food production includes:

  • Chickens and Ducks
  • Milking Goats
  • Bees
  • Gardening, Edible Landscaping and Mushrooms

We Also:

  • Make all of our own household supplies and personal care items
  • Do all of the construction on our house
  • Share our skills with others through community outreach

We do all of this on ¼ acre in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

It’s More than Just Chickens- When the Trouble Started

When we began raising food, we checked with our Homeowners Association. I served on our HOA Board for over seven years, and I was confident we weren’t breaking any rules.
Just under a year ago, I was contacted by a local paper. They asked if they could run a story about our lifestyle. I was happy to open my doors for them, to share what we love. The paper misrepresented their interest in our story.

Two neighbors in our town filed complaints against each other over backyard poultry. The city issued a citation with a $500.00/day fine until the poultry was removed since poultry was ‘against the law’. The paper couldn’t release the name of the accused since there was a pending court case, so they put mine name in the paper and used our story as an example.

The Georgetown County Council stood the ground that all poultry and livestock are illegal and therefore they have to be removed.

The lawyer of the defendant discovered there wasn’t a law in our county that said livestock was against the law in residential areas.

Between the lawyer and the County Council, they came up with a plan to pass a law ‘allowing’ back yard chickens in 5 new zones out of the 26 zones in our county. What my friend and her attorney failed to realize is by supporting this decision it would now go on record that owning livestock in all the other zones is now illegal.

It’s More Than Just Chickens-Fighting for the Right to Feed My Family

I went to every zoning meeting and pleaded with the county council to reconsider. I showed them the statistics. Out of the 61,000 residents in Georgetown County, more than 41% live below the Federal Poverty line- their neighbors, friends, and families. We need to be allowed to use our land to support our family. I explained how the government funding for SNAP and food benefits are running out. I pointed out we already have laws in place addressing their 3 primary concerns, specifically:

#1 – Would people operate a commercial chicken farm at their homes? No. We already have laws against operating a business in a residence.

#2 – Would backyard chickens produce too much noise at night? We already have noise nuisance laws in place. Chickens roost at dusk and never make a noise at night unless there is a predator.

#3 – Would backyard chickens produce sewage runoff problems? DHEC already has laws enforcing sewage runoff and contamination.

The Zoning Board and the County Council state that anything not specifically listed as ‘allowable’ is automatically against the law.

“Use of Land or Structures. 503.1 No land or structure shall hereafter be used or occupied unless it is specifically permitted as an allowable use within that zoning district and no structure or parts thereof shall hereafter be constructed, erected, altered or moved unless in conformity with all of the regulations herein specified for the district which it is located.”

I pointed out that according to their reasoning and laws my: garden, dog house, bird feeder, playset, rain barrel, and everything else outside of my dwelling could be presumed against the law.

In spite of all my efforts and the efforts of other community members, the law went through. It was added to the zoning laws within 12 hours of the final meeting.

For the first time in my life, I am knowingly breaking the law. Any day they may take away our ability to put food on our table.

Every person should have the right to provide for their family, as long as we are not infringing on our neighbors rights to do the same.

This is wrong, and I will continue to fight.

21 Comments

  1. Linda Turner on May 23, 2016 at 9:05 pm
    I stand behind you and others who are doing the same
  2. Don on May 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm
    Besides getting mad is there Any thing we can do to help with this, or something like this? These laws are ridiculous
    • The Coastal Homestead on May 24, 2016 at 1:43 am
      For right now I am seeking the advice from Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/) and hope they can help me and others like me. You can try to replace county council members with those that would support our freedoms. They get away with it because no one pays attention or stands up until it effects them or it's too late. Everyone says 'why don't you just move?' well that is not an option. Every man should have a right to live off his land no matter the size.
    • Susan on June 20, 2016 at 6:03 am
      I stand behind you also 100 percent. I have worked in the healthcare profession for several years and while we discuss the benefits of healthy diets to all age groups to hopefully decrease chronic disease in the future we still have not eliminated processed foods and make it easier for individuals who choose to grow and raise a healthier product for themselves and their children. Shame on those individuals that are ignorant of the health benefits they could be embracing also!
  3. Liz on May 25, 2016 at 1:47 pm
    These laws are ridiculous! As long as you are not disturbing those around you and you are properly caring for your animals it is just flat out wrong that they can tell you what to do on YOUR land. I am so sorry you are going through this
    • The Coastal Homestead on May 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm
      You are right. It is absurd that the county and government try to control our ability to provide food and health for our family. I will do everything in my power to get those rights back.
  4. Molly on May 26, 2016 at 11:10 pm
    I'm one of the people who is against back yard chickens. We have a rooster down the block crowing until midnight or later and up again at 3am. We have stink wafting on the breeze making it impossible to enjoy a back yard bbq. We have rats attracted to the chicken feed. ... and for what? A few eggs. Think about it; feeding 4 chickens can cost anywhere from $26 to $40 per month. From those 4 chickens you would get anywhere from 2 to 4 eggs a day which is 10 dozen a month, maximum. With eggs selling around $1.70 per dozen .. you have actually spent more to raise back yard eggs than if you bought them at the store and that didn't include the cost of bedding, grit, oyster shell, coop, laying boxes and any other things the chickens may need. I doubt many back yard owners are butchering their own chickens but if they are, what are they doing with the entrails? That shouldn't be in the public trash system and neither should the piles and piles of manure and dirty bedding created by back yard animals of any kind. There is far more to this argument that needs to be considered and the people who want to keep small farm animals will always downplay the bad side.
    • The Coastal Homestead on May 27, 2016 at 12:06 am
      Thank you for sharing the other side of the story. I do have to point out that some of your figures are off in regards to my situation. 1- we do not own roosters, any roosters that are owned locally have noise reducer collars and with the collars have been scientifically proven to not be louder than a cats meow. The female hens roost at dusk and do no make a sound unless there is a predator. 2- Our feed is sealed in our shop and no more attract a rat or a mouse then your household trash sealed in a can. 3- Our feed only cost $13.00 for 2 months which feeds 11 hens that give me 5 dozen eggs per week, for which I charge $5.00 a dozen (see my store on this site). I do this because I know what my chickens are fed and how they are treated, their eggs provide a higher nutrition content than store-bought eggs and the life lessons my children learn are priceless. It isn't just for a couple of eggs, it is providing a quality product for my family. Chickens have the lifespan similar to a small dog; each animal be it feather or fur, gets buried and not butchered when their life with us is over. I am assuming other responsible chicken owners would dispose of any parts not consumed the same way they would if they bought a chicken, pig, or other meat product from a store. I have never seen piles of manure or dirty bedding in a backyard chicken flock situation. Our bedding and chicken manure goes into the compost bin where it biodegrades into organic compost that I promptly put on one of my many garden beds. Our neighborhood HOA has awarded us with a certificate for the nicest and most aesthetically pleasing yard so I am assuming my neighbors like how our yard looks. Although there is always good and bad in every situation it boils down to being a good neighbor. It should not be a matter of the state to dictate our ability to produce our own food or how we use our land. It isn't just about chickens, it is about our Civil Liberties and our ability to provide for our families the way we were intended to. As a responsible pet and livestock owner, it is also my duty to not infringe on my neighbors rights to enjoy their land, obviously what you are experiencing is issues with a bad neighbor. However, one persons bad experience shouldn't take the right away from the rest of us. In today's economy, it is a necessity and God given right to provide for our family, whether it chickens, a garden, or buying food at the store.
      • Christine on May 27, 2016 at 3:47 pm
        Amen to everything you have said! I support your efforts wholeheartedly. I pray that God will lead you to a victorious resolution.
        • The Coastal Homestead on May 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm
          Thank you for your kind words. I believe that God brought me to it so He can bring me through it.
      • Brantlee on May 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm
        Very well said. One noisy Rooster can be dealt with, but the flock shouldn't suffer. These laws are insane!
    • Susan on June 20, 2016 at 6:07 am
      Perhaps it would be wiser to research how other communities have dealt with these issues in other states. Sharing both the pros and cons they have experienced may provide a solution to some of tge negative aspects.
  5. Kellie on May 29, 2016 at 5:55 am
    I was going to chime in on feed costs also. Before free ranging my four birds I typically spent about $13 for feed that lasted from one to two months and got anywhere from 3 to 6 eggs daily. We consume most of our eggs in addition to sharing with our adult children. That said I generally gather a dozen or more per week making the cost of six dozen eggs around $2 per dozen. Now I am free ranging my birds so they get less commercial feed. My daughter commented this week on the rich yellow color of our yolks. I like that the birds also help keep ticks and mosquitos in check I'm addition to other pests. Also my girls are silent at night. Carry on! :)
    • The Coastal Homestead on May 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm
      Wonderful, thanks for sharing. I free-range most of the day which according to the new rules is also against the law, I have a completely fenced in yard so my animals do not leave our property. I just finished an interview with a commercial organic chicken farmer who ferments his feed which further stretches his budget and it is healthier for the chickens. Fermented feed offers your flock natural probiotics, keeps them hydrated and it makes the nutrients in the grains bio-available. As soon as I become proficient at fermenting our grains I will write about it.
    • Susan on June 20, 2016 at 6:09 am
      Agree.
  6. Chet on June 5, 2016 at 2:39 am
    Amber, I feel for you. But you know the stories more than I do. The one that comes to mind is the guy in OR, I believe, who was being fined x dollars a day for making a pond on his multi-acre property. This, after having gone through the requisite permits, etc. I think he triumphed in the end, but what a horrible ordeal. And then there's the lady in FL, who, like yourself, had a story written about her in the paper about how she was "off the grid" and using rain water, not city water. Well, she got busted too. Anyway, the long and the short of it is they don't want us self-sufficient. But you are a very savvy person with a lot of spirit--so don't give up!
  7. Pam on June 5, 2016 at 11:17 am
    I support you 100 percent and more....We have chickens, both egg and meat. We also have turkeys too. But we live on 66 acres out in the boonies. You know...almost all laws are put in place because some a-hole wrecks it for everyone else. It only takes one. An old adage I grew up hearing is that often when one person gains a freedom, someone else loses a freedom. Let's take your situation. If one person is delinquent in caring for their backyard flock, disturbs the neighbors or even makes a public health hazard, then there has to be some structure for the authorities to rely on to support whatever actions they take against the miscreant. And those laws/rules then affect all the other chicken owners who do a good job. The structure that has to be put in place is cumbersome and if not carefully constructed, the loopholes will be manipulated by another person to their benefit and thus we have a microcosm of our nation's system, in a nutshell so to speak. And as far as the "math" regarding raising egg layers...you are wasting your breath. Those folks never "get" why we do what we do and never will. They have no concept of the real cost of food. You just smile and nod and spend your energy elsewhere. I lived in Colorado for 20 years and it was illegal to put a rain barrel under your gutter. Water laws out west are very different. They are trying to change that law but how ridiculous is it that I couldn't store the water that came off my roof? Yup...that ridiculous. There are a lot of situations like this....and for an extreme example, just look at Lavoy Finicum. I best get off the soapbox. I wish you the very best of luck with your situation. It is unconscionable that you have to go thru all that, just to do what our nation did routinely only 100 years ago. Pam
  8. Redd Tornado on June 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm
    I believe the Supreme court ruled that for citizens everything which is not forbidden is allow, it is the Government for which everything which is not expressly allowed is forbidden.
  9. Elizabeth on October 21, 2016 at 6:07 am
    Michigan has been slowly changing it's Right to Farm Law to make it more and more difficult to provide food for our families. It's a terrible shame since the backyard "livestock" most of us keep is less trouble than the dogs who escape yards and certainly far less destructive than the cats people let out at night and all the feral cats that roam everywhere. I'm blessed that I live between two very tiny villages and most people here are not the complain to the authorities type. If they are upset about your chickens they come straight to you and you work it out together. As it should be.
  10. Kathy Hutton on January 3, 2017 at 4:51 pm
    I wish there was a law like that about people collection junk cars in their yards! Our neighbor has oh, 25 cars n trucks sitting around. The collection is still growing. BUT even if I do not like it and think he should respect his neighbors by hiding them. It is his right to do what he wants with the property he owns. Just like the chicken problem where does one man's right stop and another begin. Our freedoms are slowly being taken away and one day we will awake to see we are the steeple they want us to be. By force or abdication. We do not police ourselves anymore, so the the has law has to. It is sad that we really don't own our land just stop paying your taxes and you'll soon see you're just renting it. I believe in freedom. I hope your city n state will come to their senses and give the people back their freedoms. You may have to live with things you dislike (junk yards next door) but at least you could live as you like.
    • The Coastal Homestead on January 3, 2017 at 8:07 pm
      Thank you for your reply. I believe we should be allowed to live as we wish as long as it doesn't impose on our neighbors to enjoy the same. If my chickens made loud sounds all hours of the night, were obnoxious, foul smelling or left my property etc. then that would infringe on my neighbors rights and freedoms and that isn't right. In your case, we already have local laws in place prohibiting junk cars so that wouldn't be an issue here. Unfortunately, the county feels the need to create and enforce laws that take away or rights and freedoms without cause. Their reasoning? Our neighbors don't like it- or the 'what ifs' that have never happened. They want a society that is independent but completely co-dependent on the system in order to survive.

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