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Grottoes continues to weigh options on backyard chickens

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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GROTTOES, Va. (WHSV) - While Rockingham County is known for its massive poultry industry, in Grottoes, there has been an ongoing debate for several years about allowing backyard chickens in the town.

The town’s laws do not allow chickens on properties less than one acre but some residents hope that will change soon.

“The City of Waynesboro, the City of Staunton, the City of Harrisonburg all of these places allow backyard chickens, not to mention Grottoes isn’t a city we’re a small town. I can drive 5 minutes down the street and there are chickens running loose,” said Kayla Reed, a Grottoes resident.

Reed has been advocating for the town to create an ordinance allowing backyard chickens for years, she even runs a Facebook page dedicated to the issue. Reed said she has received a lot of support from fellow residents.

“I’ve gone door to door with a little petition and I added in there ‘Would you own chickens? Yes or no’ and I truly did not think that many people would say yes but just about everybody said yes they would potentially own chickens if it was possible,” she said.

The town’s leadership has explored several options to gather feedback and consider a chicken ordinance. They recently looked into a possible referendum vote but decided against it as it would have required changing the town’s charter.

“It was a fairly comprehensive project to go through all that just for one ordinance. So I recommended for the town to have a survey through the water and sewer bills with the opportunity for each citizen to express their support or opposition,” said Nathan Miller, attorney for the Town of Grottoes.

Miller believes the survey option would not only be simpler, but also get a more accurate poll of the town’s residents.

“My thought would be that most people who get their sewer and water bills would be more likely to send back a little piece of paper that says yes or no rather than go to a polling booth to vote on a referendum,” he said.

Kayla Reed hopes the town will act soon to allow chickens. She said allowing them could be very beneficial to residents, especially at a time when grocery prices are soaring.

“Prices are getting higher and higher every single day, there’s always stuff missing. People say ‘well it’s just eggs, it’s just eggs’ but I noticed a two-dollar increase in eggs when I purchased them from Walmart last week, I mean that’s a big deal,” she said.

Reed said that chickens would also provide other benefits.

“Chickens eat mosquitos, ticks, slugs, all sorts of insects, they are a natural pesticide right there that’s also giving you food. There are just so many benefits I think to having backyard chickens,” she said.

Reed said the main points made in opposition to backyard chickens come from people who are worried they would escape from their cages and cause issues in the town.

The Grottoes Town Council could authorize a survey to go out to the town’s residents at its next meeting in June. Nathan Miller said the decision on how to handle the issue is ultimately up to the council.

“They’ve already had a public hearing on it so they could bring it back up to the whole council for consideration and it would be a straightforward vote. The proposed amendment on the statute is complete it’s just a matter of whether or not it passes,” he said.

The next Grottoes Town Council meeting is on Monday, June 13.

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