My family lives on 3 acres zoned SF40 in Socastee. One of the first things we did after we moved in six years ago was to purchase a small flock of chickens. We enjoyed fresh eggs on a regular basis and always had enough to share with family and friends. We shook our heads in disbelief over a year ago when told we aren’t allowed to have hens because the codes don’t mention them, therefore they are prohibited. Natives of Socastee such as myself have watched politely as the population of our area has grown and grown until it’s attempting to swallow all that’s left of our home.
We were forced to relocate our flock. Since then an Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee spent nearly a year researching similar ordinances in other counties and municipalities, coordinating public workshops, and discussing the benefits and how to control the risks with various professional organizations. Obviously the ordinance was not written quickly or carelessly. It has in place several conditions that must be met by the property owner to ensure neighbors aren’t offended or at risk.
Included in the conditions are the stipulations that only eight hens (no roosters) per 1.5 acres and three honeybee hives per 1 acre would be allowed. Common sense tells us that properties of at least an acre are more than adequate to accommodate those numbers without infringing on neighbors. However, after all of that time and effort, the Horry County Council recently voted down the second reading and public review of the rule.
The council is concerned that while it may work for rural parts of Horry County, it wouldn’t work for the more urban areas. Believe it or not, most of the young families who would embrace this ordinance are not in the rural areas! The idea of urban farms and sustainability are extremely popular with families today and it’s not because we are Gamecock fans like one local resident would suggest. We are in love with what these ideas represent and we want to be allowed to take part in changing this world for the benefit of our children, in our own homes and in the urban and surburban areas where we have chosen to raise them.
We want our children to have the best of both worlds. But this is not just a local matter. What a shame that Horry County Council doesn’t recognize that this is part of a huge movement expanding in the entire country. It isn’t a trend as much as a lifestyle change. Furthermore, the idea suggested by a local resident that allowing hens would mean they may also have to allow alligators and tigers is an absolute insult to the intelligence of the council members. There is no tangible beneficial product comparable to fresh eggs and local honey that the Florida Gator or Clemson Tiger mascots provide.
There was also a concern that regulating this ordinance would be impossible. Realistically there are very few lots in urban Horry County over 1.5 acres and even fewer that aren’t already under the jurisdiction of an HOA. It’s unlikely that approving this ordinance would cause a rush on chicks at Conway Feed and Grain or McMurrayHatchery.com. It’s more likely that those many SF40 residents who already have hens and/or bees under the radar don’t even realize they are in violation of the codes.
Horry County works entirely on the complaint system, so unless they happen to have a neighbor with an irrational personal vendetta against them, officers will likely not have to respond to an increased number of “chicken calls.” These residents will continue to gather eggs and jar honey in peace.
I would hope that the council members would revisit their rash decision to vote down this ordinance. I would hope they have guts and common sense enough to support Horry County families as we move ahead with the rest of the nation toward community sustainability and healthier lifestyle choices. After all, change starts in your own backyard.
The writer lives in Socastee.