Northeast Tarrant

‘Backyard chickens’ banned in this small town. But some want to give the birds a home

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Jeremy Moody has a special reason for wanting to raise chickens in his back yard.

His 3-year-old daughter, Ivy, is undergoing treatment for leukemia, and she needs lots of protein. Her parents want to keep close tabs on where their food comes from because their daughter has a weak immune system.

Ivy is on steroids, so she is always hungry, her father said.

Unlike its nearby neighbors Haltom City and Fort Worth, Watauga doesn’t allow chickens. But Moody and others are pushing for an ordinance to allow “backyard chickens” in Watauga.

People can weigh in on whether they want chickens during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 7105 Whitley Road.

“When we looked into it, we saw that Watauga is the only city in our area that doesn’t allow chickens,” Moody said. “It’s not just about people wanting more pets; this is a viable option for our city.”

Moody said he was surprised that Watauga, a city of almost 25,000 people, doesn’t allow chickens.

“We’re just this tiny place between Fort Worth and Keller,” he said. “You would think that a small town would be somewhat lax with those ordinances.”

Councilman Scott Prescher said he brought up discussions on allowing chickens after residents approached him during his campaign last year.

“When you hear something several times, you have a moral obligation to bring it up,” he said.

Prescher said the proposed ordinance has restrictions, such as putting a limit on how many chickens people can have and prohibiting roosters in the city. If the ordinance goes through, people will have to attend training classes on how to raise chickens and to know requirements for building proper chicken coops, he said.

Prescher said he grew up in the country and is used to animals, but he said he won’t be raising chickens if the ordinance passes because of his schedule with a full-time job and his city council responsibilities.

People who raise chickens in their back yards say there are benefits, such as having a constant supply of fresh eggs and insect control.

Reactions are mixed among Watauga residents on whether they want chickens.

Carlotta Grady wrote on the city’s Facebook page, “What about the diseases they carry and the droppings?”

But Cheneya Cruze, who runs her business — Charlie and the Cookie Factory — out of her home, said she wants fresh eggs to use in her cookies. She already makes her own vanilla.

“By having chickens, we control how we feed them,” she said. “We are a small business, and you have to find a way to set yourself apart,” she said.

Jeff Raska, a Dallas County horticulture program assistant with Texas A&M AgriLife extension, said backyard chickens can either be amazing animals or a nightmare, and it is important for people to be educated about raising the birds before making a commitment.

“Selective breeding has made them very docile, sweet animals. They can be attached to people or kids,” Raska said.

There are also the health benefits of having eggs from the hens because people control feeding them. But problems come when the birds aren’t housed properly, and it is important to keep coops extremely clean as chickens are clean animals, often preening themselves, Raska said.

Raska added that he wants to dispel myths, such as that having chickens reduces property values or that the birds carry diseases. Spinach has more salmonella than chickens, he said.

It is important to wash hands after handling the birds, but the risk of getting a disease is very low.

Meanwhile, Moody said that if he can start raising chickens, the birds can be companions for his daughter who cannot go to school or daycare because of her compromised immune system.

“The chickens will give her something she needs, emotional and nutritional support. This touches many areas for us,” Moody said.

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