Wake Forest, NC — The owners of four chickens are arguing that the animals should be considered pets and therefore be allowed inside their Granville County subdivision.
An appeal to a judgment from 2019 was filed Tuesday within the NC Court of Appeals by defendants William and Hannah Suh Kittinger, who moved into the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in 2016 and became involved in a disagreement once they began keeping four hens in a chicken coop in their backyard.
In 2018, plaintiffs Antonia Lamar Bryan and Uvetia Bryan filed a lawsuit against the Kittingers, stating the chickens were a nuisance that violated the community’s policy against the keeping of poultry. The Kittingers admitted to keeping chickens but denied the hens violated neighborhood rules or were a nuisance.
The 1998 neighborhood covenant cited by the Bryans reads, “No animals, livestock or poultry of any kind shall be raised, bred or kept on the building site, except that dogs, cats or other household pets may be kept, provided that they are not bred or maintained for any commercial purpose.”
The defendants argued that, even though their chickens are poultry, they also fall under the category of allowed household pets. They argued the hens are not kept for commercial use, as they do not sell their eggs.
When the Kittingers argued further that they consider the chickens pets, the Bryans argued back that the only interaction the Kittengers have with their hens is when they retrieve eggs from the coop.
In late 2019, the court sided with the Bryans, indicating that the chickens were a violation of the community, and the Kittingers were instructed to get rid of their backyard coop.
However, the neighborhood added an amendment in 2020 allowing each home to keep up to five hens for non-commercial use. A majority of the 16 homeowners in the neighborhood approved the amendment, and the trial court ruled the Kittengers can use the new amendment as a defense to keep their chickens.
“We conclude that the 1998 covenant does not prevent a homeowner in Sleepy Hollow to keep hens as ‘household pets’ and not otherwise for some ‘commercial purpose,'” the document reads. “Accordingly, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”
The argument over the backyard chickens comes as North Carolina deals with the spread of a highly contagious flu that is deadly to birds, which forced the euthanasia of 32,000 turkeys in Johnston County last week.
Officials said it is safe for humans to consume poultry, but chicken owners should use precautions such as washing their hands and changing their shoes after being around the animals.