ONLY ON 3: City says autistic boy’s chickens must go

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Submitted: Thu, 11/01/2012 - 9:28pm
Updated: Fri, 11/02/2012 - 1:28am

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Dealing with autism can be tough, but some unique perspectives have allowed growth that otherwise may be impossible. Now one family says the City of Wilmington has decided that their approach to help their autistic son is illegal.

The Clarks say ever since their autistic son got three pet chickens, he’s changed.

“In the last two years he has really come out of his shell,” Deborah Clark said about her son. “He was a very introverted, shy child with no friends. He’s doing new things. He’s paddle-boarding. He works for the neighbors. He takes risks. Even his teachers have seen a complete change in him in the last two years. He’s just a different kid.”

The City of Wilmington found out about the chickens and says the Clarks do not have enough land to keep them. Clark says the property is just shy of the half acre needed. She thinks there needs to be an exception. She says she has tried to explain the situation to her son, but he just does not understand.

“It’s going to tear him apart, because he has raised these chickens since they were babies,” Clark said. “He takes care of them and loves them like their his pets.”

Clark says she only has a few weeks to figure out what to do next before the city will enforce the code. She says she plans to look into appealing the decision or may try to get the birds certified as therapy animals so they can stay.

The city said most cases like this are called in because of a neighbor complaint, usually about noise. We spoke to a few of the Clarks’ neighbors who say they do not have a problem with the chickens staying. Most said they did not even know the family had chickens in the first place.


  • Chicken Revolution says:

    That’s right, if you don’t like a law, it’s a good time to change it. Wilmington likes to tout itself as the progressive beacon of the south, or on the other hand, as a folksy old-time garden of southern values. Guess what? Chickens are required for either way you want to see it, folks.
    Dogs and children are nastier and dirtier than chickens and neither lays any eggs.
    We need to have a chicken revolution and flood the streets with chickens before this city council takes away every dang right a person has to live as an individual. Have you noticed how our city council is more concerned with the tourist perception of this town than with how we live as residents? That morality of fakery has no place in the leadership of a town.
    Do your part and get a chicken, people, all of you!!!
    We’ve got your back!

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    We have laws in place for a reason. If this family is in violation then this would be a, great, “teachable moment” regarding “actions and consequences” for the child and the parents. If you don’t like the law, do away with it, not look for ways to circumvent it.

    Wilmington Observer


    My name is Ashleigh Cheney Hart. We are going through a similar situation here in DeBary, FL. Our 2.7 year old son is autistic and chickens have helped him SOO much from gross motor skills, to people skills, to dietary advantage (eggs) to actually TRYING to speak etc. I don’t know how to explain it, but having our chickens has been a wonderful supplement to the therapies that he is already in.

    Please understand, most insurances only cover the BARE MINIMUM when it comes to therapies for children with special needs. These parents deserve a pat on the back for “thinking outside the box” and finding a way to open their son up.

    Please please feel free to contact me and I would LOVE to help if I can! I have found SEVERAL families that have used chickens for supplemental therapy for their autistic children. Not only that, chickens are also used for PTSD and even working with the elderly in nursing homes.

    God bless this family!!! DO NOT GIVE UP! You have given your son a voice and you need to continue to fight for HIS rights.

    Feel free to contact me:

    Blessings! You are in my prayers!

  • Ed says:

    Yes! In Chicago, backyard chickens are kept on lots typically 25′ x 125′.

    Wilmington needs to get the “big picture” on this issue. Any lot that’s big enough for a small dog is more than large enough for a couple of hens. Rather than embarass themselves by enforcing a well-intentioned, but mis-directed ordinance, Wilmington ought to review and rewrite the applicable ordinance(s).

    Backyard chickens do not require a barn, feedlot, manure pit, corral, or any of the other things that larger animals considered “livestock” need. Calling them “farmyard animals” or “barnyard animals” intentionally confuses the issue.

    Our son is Autistic, and gets along very well with chickens. We are hoping to have our own coop next spring, and are currently battling our own village on this issue. Therapy is where you find it!

  • Joe Hart says:

    I am currently fighting this issue in Florida. I think you and I are covered by the ADA and the Fair Housing Act. My lawyer will present our case to our city council tomorrow 11-6-2012. If you have any questions or need help I will give you all the information I have come up with. You can e-mail me or call me 321-388-3043. You can find out more about our situation if you google debary + chickens. You can also go to my son’s face book page Let me know I hope I can help,

  • roadhound says:

    Let him keep the chickens and get rid of the politicians. There are three hens that do not make any noise and do not smell. I have a bigger problem with people feeding ferrel cats in that neighborhood. Those cats leave a mess in my yard which I have to clean up, scratch my cars and don’t have rabies shots.

  • Guest1971 says:

    Right on Wilmington Observer. Glad to hear the voice of COMMON SENSE instead of the voice ‘I am special, I need to be exempt from the rules’.

  • city dweller says:

    Let the chickens stay!!! If they do not cause any problems, they should stay! And what is up with the city ordinance? I know plenty of folks with chickens in town – they are great to have around!

  • Guest31415 says:

    It is probably the number of chickens she has for the size of her yard.

  • taxpayer says:

    would that be in compliance with the City’s idiotic law? Developers are the ones who decide the lot size. How many homes in the City have a 1/2 acre or larger lot?

  • Jdog2012 says:

    Take your chickens to the next city council meeting and tell old greasy Saffo he can have the eggs if he will change the ordinance. They will do anything for you as long as they benefit from it!!

  • Don Blake says:

    What’s the problem with the chickens? They are allowed in the city because I know many people with them. I wish they would focus on the 30 ferrell, disease carrying stray cats that are always in my yard leaving their feces and turning my driveway into a litter box. No ordinance on cats though. If they are in the kids backyard and the neighbors don’t even know they are there leave them alone. Someone needs to change the ordinances in this city. This is worse than the worst homeowners association.

    Go stop the drugs and leave the birds alone!!!

  • Deb says:

    AMEN!!! These chickens are not hurting anyone. They are actually helping this child. What is wrong with you people . The very ones causing this issue, have run out of things to do and now they go and pick on an autistic child. Shame on you!!!

  • Sharon Davis says:

    Let the Clarks keep the chickens. It would be difficult enough for a young boy to give up his pets but with autism, it is even more emotionally disruptive. People who own chickens in the city of Raleigh are hailed as champions of the environment. They even conduct a tour of homes with chickens in the yard.

  • Guest1121211 says:

    Although I have sympathy for the situation, the parents should have checked into city ordinances prior to bringing the chickens home. How did the city find out about the chickens in the first place? That is the question I have….. I bet there is more to the story.

  • Guest1993 says:

    Good Point – you should check ordinances before you decide to do something like this.

    My concern is that this starts a slippery slope – this kid needs chickens as a therapy animal, the next kid needs a goat, the one after that loves his hog, the kid after that is only calmed by his pet tiger, so forth and so on.

  • asalkj says:


  • Guest2020 says:

    I think the family should get in contact with the ACLU and explore options under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don’t know if “reasonable accommodations” would apply in this situation, but it is worth looking into.

  • Guester says:

    I wonder who may have turned in the offending fowl. It’s not like the city goes door to door to ask if you have farm animals living in your house.

  • allen says:

    let the chickens stay. whats next a ban on 16oz sodas?

  • Freedom Chicken says:

    You do know that “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy?

  • Guest* says:

    Oh my goodness! This is regulation without regard. If these are hens, they make no noise. The waste can be composted and they give you eggs. None of that can be said for dogs, yet they’re allowed with few restrictions. Tended chickens have little, if any, odor and don’t draw pests. Add the therapy benefit to the autistic child and this ruling borders on lunacy. Sounds like a case of code enforcement without any consideration of the circumstances. Surely there is a mechanism for this family to apply for a variance; it’s truly a pity that they have to do that.

  • Guesticator says:

    Wilmington’s poultry laws are archaic. Cities such as New York and Chicago allow residents to own hens. They reduce insect pests and provide cheap, nutritious food for low income people.
    Our poultry laws date back to the days when everyone had wells in their yards. Like on most issues, Wilmington is about 20 years behind the rest of the country.

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