Township-Honored 'Pet' Chicken Ordered off Property

Article excerpt

You can pet it.

You can name it.

You can even think of it as part of the family.

But under North Huntingdon's zoning ordinance, a chicken belongs on a farm.

And the family of 13-year-old Melissa Hensler is crying foul.

For six years, Melissa has cared for her rooster, Sundae, whom she watched hatch from an egg, and eight other "pet" chickens in her family's back yard in the Country Hills neighborhood.

It's an easy place to find. From Route 30, just turn onto Caruthers Lane at the KFC.

Kept in tidy little coops at night, Sundae and the chickens wandered around the family's back yard Friday afternoon, clucking softly and pecking at the ground. Once in a while, one pops off a cock-a-doodle-doo.

Two summers ago, Sundae won first place for "Most Unusual Pet" in a contest co-sponsored by the township.

But in July, a neighbor started squawking, and Barb and Don Hensler were notified their chickens violate the township's zoning ordinance regarding farms and livestock.

"They said they got an anonymous complaint that we were raising chickens," said Barb Hensler. "They also said chickens were not pets. Who are they to say our chickens aren't our pets?"

Unruffled, the Henslers plunked down $250 -- not exactly chicken feed -- to ask the board for a special exception to allow Melissa to keep her pets. …