Roswell's ‘Chicken Man' goes to jail

There's nobody home but chickens at Andrew Wordes' house.

Roswell Municipal Court Judge Maurice Hilliard revoked Wordes' probation Wednesday, leaving his flock of some 100 chickens and turkeys unattended until friends round up volunteers to care for them. Wordes will serve the balance of his one-year jail sentence imposed last November when he pleaded guilty to city code violations.

He was charged with having more than four cars in his driveway and improper grading on his property.

Famed as Roswell's "Chicken Man" for his battle to keep livestock in his backyard, Wordes was found in violation for failing to report to his probation officer over the past five months, failing to pay the $39 monthly probation fee and failing to perform 180 hours of community service by April 30.

Wordes told the judge he had been ill and was unaware the deadline had passed for performing the work. He also said he was unable to find work to pay the fee.

"I know I have not paid the majority of it," he said. "I know I have to pay it."

But Roswell Solicitor Krista Young said Wordes signed documents acknowledging he understood and agreed to the terms.

"I am too sick to work," Wordes said.

Are you too sick to report to your probation officer, Young asked.

Wordes' court-appointed attorney, Dawn Davis, said her client was guilty of "terrible bookkeeping," but he has also faced declining health. She said he had made efforts to perform community service by volunteering on the Memorial Day Committee and working for other charities, none of which were documented to the probation officer.

Hilliard ruled that even by generous accounting, Wordes had fallen nearly 30 hours short of his community service obligation.

"I think we've been more than merciful with Mr. Wordes," he said.

Wordes began raising chickens on his .97-acre homestead just off Alpharetta Highway back in 2005.

In 2009, the city cited him for raising livestock after a neighbor filed a complaint. The case attracted the attention of former Gov. Roy Barnes, who successfully represented Wordes in court.

In December 2009, the city council approved a new ordinance that bans roosters and uses lot size to determine how many chickens a resident can keep. Wordes was later arrested for driving with a suspended license and spent a night in jail. He has since received nearly a dozen citations for traffic and code violations.

Last month, nearly a third of his chickens and turkeys died under mysterious circumstances. Wordes said he is still waiting on a toxicology report from the state to determine whether the birds were poisoned.

Resident Janet Russell, who attended Wednesday's hearing, said Wordes has been unfairly persecuted.

"I want to know why the city has decided to pick on him," she said, adding that officials have overlooked other zoning violations elsewhere. "Why is the city picking on a taxpayer?"

In the mean time, friends like Patti Silva are organizing to tend the flock.

"I understand both sides of the fight, but I'm just a chicken lover who became friends with him," Silva said. "I know he's eccentric, but the city could have taken better care of one of their own."