Southern Backyards

Well, chickens are back in the news. With all the attention being paid to the debt ceiling media event, the school mess and the endless stories on CBS Atlanta about the fireman who was smoking dope on the job, it’s easy to understand how you may have missed the chicken crisis in Cobb County.

To set the record straight, it is perfectly legal to keep chickens in your backyard in Cobb County. But in an unexpected flurry of ordinance muscle flexing, Cobb County decreed that chicken keepers must have 2 acres of land – which includes the home, garage, tool shed, old trampoline, soggy dog toys, and the chickens.

Mr. Joseph Pond, tax-paying citizen of East Cobb, has chickens, but just an acre and a half of land. Hence the chicken police served Mr. Pond a restraining order.

Obviously caught up in the spirit of the recent headline grabbing, my way or the highway, reputation massacre in Washington, Mr. Pond went proactive.

Mr. Pond has formed the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County,  and has a website The goal of the organization is  “to bring together like-minded people to inform others about backyard chickens and to change the laws in Cobb County concerning poultry.”

Said Mr. Pond: ‘I’m fighting for all chickens, not just mine.’”

I personally heard Mr. Pond say on TV – between stories about the stoned fireman –– “Chickens aren’t for everybody, but everybody ought to have a right to have chickens.”

It’s that kind of thinking that is revolutionizing our system of government.

Less you think that Mr. Pond is a voice clucking in the wilderness, backyard chicken advocates say that their rights are guaranteed by the 2009 Georgia Landowner Protection Act. Now the battle moves to local jurisdictions. Roswell, Alpharetta and some other local governments already have approved backyard chickens. But the fight continues, and the Atlanta Backyard Poultry Meetup Group is leading the way.

I know that many of you are eager to know my position on backyard chickens. I’m prejudiced. As a boy, my dad, the late and sainted Mark E. Johnson Sr., raised black leghorn chickens and entered them in poultry shows. I have his silver cups to prove it. I believe in individual rights as long as you don’t interfere with others, and I’m pretty sure chickens are safer that an AK-47 shooting range behind the garage.

Mr. Pond told the AJC that he might appear before the Cobb County Commission to try and get the ordinance changed. But he said he was concerned that the Commission might think he was a nut.

Oh, I don’t know. Frankly I wouldn’t worry too much. Just keep in mind that this is the same forward-thinking outfit that wanted to close all but two of the Cobb County Public Libraries.

Just take them some fresh eggs and don’t let them ruffle your feathers.

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a professional mentalist and mind reader who presents his unique and unforgettable program to conventions, college and universities, sales meetings, private parties, business and civic clubs and more. He has also appeared at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta and produces, along with Jerry Farber and Joe M. Turner, Atlanta Magic Night at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown. He is a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Georgia Magic Club,Buckhead Rotary Club and Friends of Jim The Wonder Dog. You can learn more at He is the author of three books: "Living The Dream," the story of the first ten years of FedEx; "Superman, Hairspray, and the Greatest Goat On Earth," a collection of mostly true stories;, and "Yes Ma'am, You're Right: The Essential Rules For Living With A Woman."  Mark's day job is as a freelance writer and communications and marketing consultant. Mark has traveled around the world twice but has never been to Burlington, Vermont. He does not eat beets or chicken livers, and he has never read "Gone With The Wind." He is the only person he knows who was once a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He is a fifth generation Atlantan,  the father of three, and the grandfather of five. All offspring are demonstrably perfect. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Rebecca (aka The Goddess) and two dogs: Ferguson, an arrogant Scottish terrier; and, Lola, a Siberian husky who is still trying to figure out what the hell she's doing in Cobb County.