Chickens about to roost in Spring Hill

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What do Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Susan B. Anthony and Martha Stewart have in common?

They were the inspiration for the names of Carol Aquilante’s four new chickens that will take up residence in the backyard of her Spring Hill home, once she gets her coop built and approved by the county and goes to pick them up from the Ranch Hand’s Feed Depot in Brooksville.

Aquilante, who won her battle to get Hernando County to change its ordinance to allow backyard chickens in a residential neighborhood, is putting the finishing touches on the coop and hopes to have the four fowl by next week.

That will be a day Aquilante was not sure would ever come. When she called planning and zoning staff last October and was told the ordinance prohibited fowl in residential areas, she appealed to county commissioners to amend the rules.

That led to public hearings, some of which got contentious as critics voiced concerns of falling property values, smells and a violation of deed restrictions.

Supporters said they wanted fresh eggs and the ability to keep pets.

Finally, commissioners approved the ordinance with a host of stipulations, including the insistence that coops not be visible from the street, that homeowners be limited to no more than four chickens (no roosters) and that the coop be unobtrusive.

It also requires buy-in from neighbors, who must sign a document giving their consent

Aquilante has that approval, has plunked down $100 for the necessary permit and $25 to have a county inspector come out and look at the coop.

“(The neighbors) can’t wait,” she said. “They’re chomping at the bit waiting to see them.”

After all she’s been through Aquilante said she wants to make sure she follows all the rules and regulations.

“I don’t want it to be an eyesore there,” she said. “I want it to look nice. I don’t want anyone to complain after all the work I’ve done.”

Looking back, Aquilante is pleased with the process and sees it as an example of American democracy in action.

“I was really surprised at the response (of my mission) in a good way and appreciative of the process,” she said. “Whether for or against, I’m glad I live in a country where you can do these things.”

Aquilante is building the coop herself and painting it green, to blend in with the trees in the backyard.

The coop is about 3 feet by 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall with a nesting box on the front where the hens can lay their eggs.

Oh, and about the chickens’ names?

After much thought, Aquilante decided to name them after four inspirational women:

Suzie B: for Susan B. Anthony, who she said helped obtain for women the right to vote and inspired her to fulfill her recent efforts

Martha: for Martha Stewart, who loves chickens so much she wrote a book about the proper care of backyard chickens

Mo: the initials of first lady Michelle Obama

Hillary: after former first lady and ex-secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Says Aquilante: “I’d be glad to name them after guys but we can’t have roosters.”

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