DC residents fighting against mayor's proposed ban on backyard chickens

- Backyard chicken coops are a growing trend in cities across the nation, but D.C. wants to crack down on urban farmers.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed a ban on backyard chicken in her 2018 budget bill that is now under consideration by city council.

It is unknown exactly how many chicken owners live in the nation’s capital because it makes sense to keep quiet about it. Owning chickens has been an unsettled issue, with the mayor's office saying it's already illegal, but the courts ruling otherwise

"They are wonderful pets," said Northwest D.C. chicken owner Winkie Crigler. "It really is a very Zen experience to come out here and hang out with the chickens."

She said aside from being egg producers, her chickens, named Tina Fey, Maggie Thatcher, Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, are part of the family.

"We were not happy to see this be part of the budget bill," Crigler said. "We think it just kind of got tucked in there, and the budget bill has a lot of really important issues that the council needs to spend time on. We think this does not belong in there."

Crigler and her husband said they plan to be at a public hearing on the budget next week. They will have company from other chicken owners. An online petition on the issue had gotten nearly 500 signatures as of Tuesday night.

In a statement, the D.C. Department of Health said:

"The keeping of fowl of all sorts, including chickens, have been prohibited for over 30 years in the District. Some confusion about the state of the law resulted from regulations that predate the Animal Control Act of 1979 that still referenced the ability to obtain permits for fowl. Those confusing elements in the regulations will be repealed in the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Act of 2017."

Last year, a couple successfully sued the District after the health department told them they had to get rid of their chickens.

Crigler said she does not know what will happen to her hens with the famous names if she has to get rid of them.

"I worry because Tina Fey is five years old, and Ivanka Trump has crooked feet," she said.

She is prepared to ruffle some feathers to save her pets.

FOX 5 asked the mayor's office if there was any specific reason behind the chicken ban, but none was provided. Chickens can spread salmonella, but there is no evidence that has been an issue in D.C.

Bowser’s proposal would make an exception for schools that use chickens for educational purposes, according to the health department.

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