Fans of urban chickens in Jax hope to crow with victory over new ordinance

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Chicken-keeping residents across Duval County both in the urban core and in more rural areas may soon have reason to cluck their cheer if a new rule allows them to keep those hens on their property, permanently.

“People really want to get in touch with their food comes from. I want my son to know that eggs don’t come from a grocery store,” said Genora Crain-Orth, founder of River City Chicks, a local advocacy group.

Crain-Orth made her remarks during a segment on WJCT’s First Coast Connect. She’s part of a coalition of local urban agriculture enthusiasts hoping an ordinance before the city council this week would make permanent a pilot program approved in 2013 allowing people to keep up to five hens (no roosters allowed).

City Councilman Doyle Carter, who represents Jacksonville’s agricultural West Side, says it’s just one local reflection of the urban agriculture movement popular around the country.

“We’ve had chickens and cows and horses all my life,” Carter said. “We now have a distinct ordinance looking at this, that covers certification and education through the ag extension office. And we’ve done hundreds of permits since we started the pilot program, and no one has been cited.”

Under the new ordinance, hen owners will need a permit and must attend a backyard chicken-keeping class through the local ag office, among other conditions.

In 2013, the city launched a pilot program allowing 300 permits for backyard chicken-keeping. The new ordinance would expand that ability to everyone who lives in a single-family home, as long as they take the county class.

Former council candidate Lisa King is on the city’s Planning Commission, which unanimously approved the measure  this month.

“As a homeowner you can have as many dogs or cats as you want. Backyard hens are largely people’s pets, so why are we treating them differently?” she said. “People have been keeping chickens across Jacksonville illegally a long time. This will legitimize what’s already been going on.”

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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