Family says chickens provide therapy for autistic son

Family says chickens provide therapy for autistic son

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A Central Florida family is fighting for their 2-year-old son and his chickens.

After JJ was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in February, his parents did some research and discovered that interaction with chickens was therapeutic for his behavioral and speech delays -- they instantly saw a difference.

"Anytime you can take him out to the chickens, he'll immediately have an attitude adjustment, and he'll just run around with the chickens, and play and he just loves being out there with the chickens," said Joe Hart, JJ's father.  "For the first time he said 'I love you,' and that meant the world to me, because he's 2-and-a-half.  He should have been saying that at like one, and I didn't know if I would ever hear that."

The parents say the chicken eggs were also an added bonus for his diet but in August code enforcement slapped the Hart family with a notice saying they're in violation of city code because their property isn't zoned for agricultural use and they could face an up to $250 dollar fine per day.

"They comfort him and he loves them and they provide us eggs," said Ashleigh Hart , JJ's mother, at the DeBary Code Enforcement meeting.

The Harts pleaded their case before the DeBary code enforcement board at Wednesday night's meeting, with help from a flock of friends family and even the mayor of DeBary, all of whom ruffled some feathers over the issue.

"Send a message a clear message to the council for a reconsideration of chickens in the community, I think they serve a purpose and in this particular case, you're talking about a child's life," said Mayor Bob Garcia.

In the end, the board said they had no choice but to find them non-compliant. "Unfortunately, I cannot agree with the fact that it's in accordance with the law, because it is not," said board Chairman Don Pulver Jr.

The board gave the family 60 days to appeal their case before city council asking for an amendment to the city code, in the meantime the family can keep the chickens for that time period.


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