Fenton Township man pleads not guilty to possessing chickens

Published: Jul. 7, 2017 at 5:43 PM EDT
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UPDATE: (07/17/17) - A Fenton Township man has plead not guilty to criminal charges of possessing chickens on his property.

Andrew Charlesworth appeared in court Monday morning with his attorney, Michael Manley.

He faces a misdemeanor charge for possessing the birds.

The attorney for the township says it's considered a zoning ordinance violation, but Charlesworth and his attorney say the specific statute he's accused of violating is too vague and doesn't specifically spell out that he can't have chickens.

Manley says he and the township attorney wanted to settle this before they had to get the court involved.

“We had differences of opinion and the only way those differences of opinion can be resolved is in a court of law, and this is the process, so this is how it starts, we knew this was coming and we look forward to our day in court,” Manley said.

The Charlesworths also started a petition a few months ago. It has well over 1,000 signatures right now.

A pretrial hearing is now set for September.


(07/07/17) - Possession of chickens is considered a zoning ordinance violation.

We introduced you to the Charlesworths in May. They've had their birds for nearly a year and received a few notices, but no court date was ever set.

Until Friday afternoon when Andrew was formally charged with a misdemeanor for possessing the birds, it carries a 90-day jail sentence.

But the Charlesworths and their attorney, Mike Manley, say the specific statute they're accused of violating is too vague and doesn't specifically spell out that they can't have chickens.

So they're fighting it.

"It was brought by one neighbor. One neighbor made a complaint. This neighbor needs to either find a job or get a hobby because he's causing a lot of his neighbors a problem," Manley said.

The Charlesworths told us in May they looked up the ordinance before they moved to Fenton Township. And, because it didn't clearly say chickens are illegal, they built a coop and bought a few.

Defense Attorney Mike Manley says they're not the only ones. He says he also lives in the Township and sees all types of non-traditional animals around town - from goats and peacocks to hamsters and guinea pigs.

So he's not sure why this one neighbor's complaint has the Charlesworths in hot water.

Manley added the chickens don't smell, they're clean and quiet. The Charlesworths treat them as pets and only use them for their eggs.

He's not pleased this went to court, but says now, they're hoping to get an ordinance set in stone that would allow urban farming for everyone in the Township.

"The Township, in my opinion, should have discretion to not bring these charges. But I think it is good because Mr. Charlewsorth is now standing up and defending a number of township residents. He has hired counsel, he is planning to go forward and we are going to contest the constitutionality of this statute," Manley explained.

The Charlesworths also started a petition a few months ago. It has well over a thousand signatures right now.

They return to court in about a week. We'll continue following this story for you.