Concord family fights to keep chickens for child with special needs

CONCORD, N.C. — A Concord family is fighting to keep their chickens.

“We moved here to North Carolina from a big city,” Sommer Celmer said. “We knew nothing about chickens three years ago.”

But her family has since learned about the birds, especially how good they’ve been emotionally for 11-year-old Nathanial.

“His diagnosis is very rare. It’s called pachygyria and polymicrogyria. It’s a rare brain malformation,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

Nathanial doesn’t speak and, unlike dogs or cats, the chickens come to him without him having to call them.

Celmer says they got the chickens in 2021. She says they checked the City of Concord’s rules -- thought it was OK -- and that no one said otherwise until code enforcement paid them a visit this month.

“My kids were bawling. They were like, ‘Can we sell the house?’ That was their reaction,” she said.

According to Concord’s rules, you can’t have chickens inside the city limits, unless you use your land for agriculture. The Celmers don’t. But they say they’ve been talking to City staff.

“They are working with us,” she said.

They have two main options:

  1. Ask the city to rezone their land to agricultural, but they’d have to start using it that way.
  2. Ask city council to change the rules.

They like the second option better, which would allow other Concord families that don’t have farms either to have chickens too.

“It could be beneficial for everybody,” Celmer said. “We’re hoping, we’re praying it works out.”

People have tried to get the city to allow chickens before, in 2012 and 2017. But city council said no.

If you’d like to propose an amendment in Concord, click here. If you have any questions, call the Concord Planning Department at 704-920-5152.

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