Bill would let more back yards be like barnyards

Some barnyard animals could be moving into back yards under a bill that cleared a House committee Wednesday.

The bill would allow homeowners to have chickens, milk goats and rabbits -- as well as sizable fruit and vegetable gardens -- so long as the goal would be to feed their families.

Local governments wouldn’t have much room to object, unless they have complaints about things like noise or odor that they're willing to take to court. Subdivision covenants would still apply, said Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), sponsor of the “Georgia Right to Grow” bill.

“If Michelle Obama can grow food at the White House, then no Georgia family should be denied the right to grow their own food,” Franklin said.

Last year, some cities in north Fulton pressed homeowners to get rid of their backyard chickens. Some of the homeowners balked, and, in December, Roswell changed its backyard chicken ordinance to allow six birds in yards of one-third to one acre and a maximum of 36 birds with even bigger acreage.

Officials representing cities and counties -- including Atlanta -- told members of the House Agriculture Committee that the bill would usurp local control.

“These decisions are best made locally,” said Tom Gehl, deputy director of governmental relations for the Georgia Municipal Association.

Committee members were split 6-6 on whether to pass the bill, and committee Chairman Tom McCall (R-Elberton) cast the tie-breaking vote.