Livestock or family? Chickens are at the center of a heated debate in Charlotte County. Charlotte County officials are telling neighbors they can’t keep their pet chickens. But they’re not getting rid of them just yet.
Advocacy group Charlotte CLUCK went to the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday to urge commissioners not to follow through with enacting a code violation on pet chickens at neighbor’s homes.
“We have our routine every morning: Come out, feed them, give them water before we go to work. Come home, check for eggs.” said Melissa Aniskewicz, founder of Charlotte CLUCK. “They’re pretty spoiled.”
For Aniskewicz, the chickens are more than farm animals, they are family. That’s why she and her family are against the code violation that won’t allow chickens on single-family lots in the county.
“Under the residential zone, it says you can keep pets,” Aniskewicz said. ”And there’s no definition of a pet, and chickens fall under a pet. So I thought we’d be OK, and we weren’t.”
Aniskewicz and her family are not done standing up to the code violation for the pet birds. She founded Charlotte CLUCK as a way to organize against the commission ruling in favor of the proposed ordinance.
“Why do we have to get rid of our chickens? They’re pets too, just like our dogs,” Aniskewicz said. “Do we have to get rid of them next?”
Andrew Nix is a member of Charlotte CLUCK. He doesn’t see any difference between keeping other birds at home, compared to chickens, that should result in a violation for them.
“You can have a parrot; you can have a parakeet; you can have any other bird,” Nix said. “Why can’t you have a chicken?”
While commissioners have concerns about safety and sanitation, they acknowledged the arguments members of Charlotte CLUCK presented to them at the public meeting.
“I think it’s worthy of a workshop to have further discussion,” Commissioner Joe Tiseo said. “See if it’s something that will work here in Charlotte County.”
The board of commissioners said it would look at ordinances in Lee County and Sarasota County, since both allow chickens. And the board will see if it can implement something similar.
“I think now is the right time,” Aniskewicz said.