Chester City Council to decide fate of chickens

Stephen Hunter of Chester soon will know whether the Chester City Council will allow him to keep 23 Barred Rock hens on his property.
Stephen Hunter of Chester soon will know whether the Chester City Council will allow him to keep 23 Barred Rock hens on his property.

CHESTER -- By this time next week, Stephen Hunter should know the fate of his 23 Barred Rock hens.

The Chester City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday night to determine what to do about Hunter's birds, which are prohibited inside the city limits under a 1995 ordinance.

Earlier this month, Hunter asked city leaders to change that law to accommodate his fowl, which he keeps inside a renovated henhouse behind his 19th-century Victorian, the fourth house on the left past City Hall.

Chester Mayor Mitch Foster said the city has asked Chester County Planning Director Mack Paul to come to the meeting and share his thoughts about the livestock ordinance.

The meeting doesn't mean the council will change the law, Foster said, but he expects a decision will be made to either pursue a change or to leave the ordinance as is.

The rule the chickens violate is the same one city leaders unsuccessfully tried to change last year to accommodate a potential homebuyer who wanted to keep horses at a barn inside city limits.

That attempt was scrapped after opposition from residents fearful of having farm animals in their neighborhoods. Their concerns led some City Council members to pull their support for a measure that would allow horses, cows, mules and other livestock in some areas of the city.

Hunter and his wife purchased their 2-acre lot five years ago with plans to restore the farmhouse and outbuildings, including the chicken coop.

As part of that restoration, he researched what type of chicken the original property owner kept in the henhouse. That's why Hunter, who serves on the city's historic preservation commission, bought the Barred Rock hens.

He also told leaders that his chickens lay about 15 brown eggs every day, and he gives most to a children's home in Rock Hill.

Should the council leave the ordinance unchanged, Hunter said the birds wouldn't be headed to the stewpot yet. A friend has said Hunter can move the chickens to his property out in the country, but Hunter would have to build a henhouse and travel to take care of them.

"They'll still be my responsibility over there," he said. "It just means I gotta drive eight minutes there and eight minutes back and take all the stuff over there."

Since The Herald first reported Hunter's request, he said he's received tremendous support from the community.

"I've actually become 'the chicken man' in Chester," he said. "People are really coming out about it. They're becoming more active and concerned. And I really like that. I think, if for no other reason, this gives people something positive to talk about for Chester."

The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.