Backyard chickens could soon be banned in the nation's capital

PHOTO: Backyard chickens in Takoma Park, Md. Lexey Swall/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Backyard chickens in Takoma Park, Md.

Backyard chickens might soon be banned from the nation’s capital, if Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal to make chicken ownership in the city illegal becomes law.

At a news conference on Thursday, Bowser said she was concerned about the conditions the chickens might create for Washington, D.C.

"The provision is that we keep neighborhoods safe, and clean and rodent-free," she said. "This is a city. And it’s not usually the chickens that are the problem, but what they leave behind."

The city has long said backyard chicken ownership is illegal, even under the allowance for "common cage birds" that some have argued applies.

Some D.C. residents are worried about the possible ban, which is included in Bowser’s 2018 budget bill and could affect the group of urban farmers with chickens being displaced. The proposed ban has been the subject of backlash from some residents, especially since the mayor’s office has not provided a reason.

"I would be very unhappy if my chickens would be banned. They are amazing," a D.C. resident who wants to be called by her first name, Kathy, told ABC News. She said she's had chickens for three years now.

Besides keeping chickens as pets, some backyard chicken owners say they prefer eating their home-grown eggs. Kathy believes the eggs taste better because owners have the ability to feed the chickens a healthier diet.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have traced salmonella outbreaks to backyard birds. In 2016, eight outbreaks of salmonella infections across several states were linked to live poultry in backyard flocks; they were tied to 895 infections and more than 200 hospitalizations.

D.C. attorney Allison Sheedy and her husband Dan McInnis created the website dcbackyardchicken.org to start a petition against the ban, after their own legal battle to obtain a permit for their four chickens. Within a week of launching the site, they had more than 500 signatures.

The couple said they were upset when they heard about this new proposal to ban backyard chickens in the city.

"Hopefully the change of law won’t go through," Sheedy told ABC News, "because it’s not appropriate to stick this in the budget."

Like Kathy, Sheedy believes that the chickens are good for the environment and considers them family members.

"It’s been really fun for our kids," said Sheedy.

The group is planning on attend the hearing at the Department of Health Budget Oversight on May 5th to raise their objections to the ban.

ABC News' Bianca Seidman contributed to this report.