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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.


Comment on this Story

  • Chicken Revolution

    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!


    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: achart1438@gmail.com

    Blessings! You are in my prayers!


  • Wilmington Observer

    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

  • Joe Hart

    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 http://www.facebook.com/JJHartChickens. Let me know I hope I can help,

  • Ed

    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!

  • Jdog2012

    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!!

  • taxpayer

    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?

  • Guest31415

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

  • city dweller

    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!

  • Guest1971

    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’.

  • roadhound

    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.

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