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North Judson family fights to keep their 4-H chickens

North Judson, IN-- Strict rules about farm animals are ruffling feathers in North Judson. A 4-H family says they’ve been told after the fair is done their hens will have to go.

The town’s animal ordinance prohibits residents from owning farm animals, including chickens. But, before that ordinance went into effect in 2012, resident Sarah Burkett says she was told her property would be exempt.

Documents from a town board meeting show the chickens on Burkett’s Leslie Street property would be grandfathered in.

Burkett says she was under the impression that as long as she didn’t have more than 12 hens at a time, she was following the rules.

Her three daughters help take care of the hens and are planning to show them at the annual 4-H fair.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them, they are our family,” says 12-year-old Mia.

Five years went by without a peep from the town. Burkett says there weren’t any complaints about the chickens until a few months ago, when Burkett says a North Judson police officer showed up at her door with a citation.

“I told him I don’t understand what I am getting a citation for and he said because they’re alive,” says Burkett.

Burkett says she has been told that when her chickens were grandfathered in to the new ordinance, it only covered the chickens that were alive at the time.

“We were told that the girls could have the chickens through the fair and then that they would be dinner,” says Burkett.

When asked for comment, a representative for the board says Burkett broke the rules by having chickens and she would have to pay the consequences. When asked about the minutes that show Burkett was allowed to keep her flock, the town representative said she had not seen the minutes. When offered the documents, she declined and said “rules are rules.”

Burkett says while the town board plans to take her chickens after the fair, she will continue to fight for them.

She’s hoping her family won’t just be the exception to the rule, but, change it all together. She says revising the animal ordinance and allowing other families in town to own chickens, would be beneficial.

Burkett says she and her supporters will be going to the next council meeting on Monday to talk more with the board. It will be at the North Judson Town Hall at 6:30.

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