Breaking News
Home / Health / City Takes Veteran To Trial For Raising Backyard Chickens

City Takes Veteran To Trial For Raising Backyard Chickens

A Northwood, Iowa man charged with violating a city ordinance that bans raising chickens within city limits is set to face trial late next week.

Leo Hendrick, war veteran, father and owner of Spartan Arms, moved his family to Northwood five years ago in hopes to live a more healthy and self-sufficient life. Through hunting, gardening and raising small animals like chickens and rabbits, Hendrick has become almost completely food independent.

Flag“We were sick of corporate farming, GMOs and pesticides,” Hendrick told Storyleak. “The price of groceries just keeps going up too so this is really the only way me and my family can survive.”

Unfortunately for Hendrick, once city council learned of his family’s chickens, a Worth County sheriff’s deputy arrived at his home late August to present a letter demanding he remove all animals from his property within 10 days.

“It really wasn’t a surprise. I don’t blame the sheriff’s department though,” Hendrick said. “There has never been a citizen complaint at all about my chickens or my gardens. It just comes down to the city government complaining about it.”

After receiving the letter, Hendrick immediately requested to speak to the Northwood City Council while submitting a possible amended ordinance to keep the family chickens. With written support from more than a dozen neighbors, Hendrick went before the city council, only to have his request denied.

“They actually told me that I just needed to ‘fit into society’ and comply,” Hendrick said. “The mayor even told me that government intruding into lives like this was okay and needed, which I didn’t agree with.”

COPP1234Only a few days later, Hendrick received a citation in the mail informing him that he was in violation of Northwood City Code Section 55.05, which states, “It is unlawful for a person to keep livestock within the city except by written consent of the council or except in compliance with the city’s zoning regulations.”

Hendrick quickly returned the citation to the city, opting to plead not guilty.

“This is how you do it. This is how you are supposed to fight bad laws and bad ordinances,” Hendrick said.

With the trial set for Dec. 13, Hendrick soon learned that the judge had banned him from bringing up any significant points during his trial including the benefits of homegrown food, other cities that allow residents to raise chickens and the fact that few people agree with the ordinance, showing a clear attempt by the city to stop any juror from nullifying the case.

“They had a whole list of things that I couldn’t talk about. I was pretty upset when the judge upheld all of that,” Hendrick said. “I felt that the judge and the prosecutor were both working against me.”

Hendrick will be represented by a court appointed lawyer for the 9 a.m. hearing. If convicted, he could face up to 30 days in jail and a $600 fine.

Share Button

About Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is an investigative journalist covering foreign policy, information security and digital surveillance. His reports have been cited by sites such as the New York Times, Computerworld, International Business Times and the Drudge Report. How to contact Mikael securely:

Check Also

Facebook’s A.I. ‘Chatbots’ Begin Communicating After Inventing New Language

Chatbots created at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab developed their own language without being ...


  1. The all powerful government moves.
    No neighbor complaints. No problems, no health issues….

    Yet the power to control drives them.
    Tyranny, it's never pretty.

    • Illegal though

      • Tyranny is often draped in the illusion of legitimacy.

        It's time he starts a recall election.

        • To be honest I think this is BS.

          The point I am trying to make is you support our criminal justice system. Why not now?

          Iowa City is a liberal infested cess pool

          • Which is why I advocate for a recall election and more citizen involvement.

            If the neighbors don't care, they should have more influence on the city officials.

          • It's a great idea. Too many left wing nuts in that city though

          • Informed and active citizens are the best hope to stop tyranny.

          • Yes they are.

            How informed are liberals in the biggest party town in the country though?

          • Informed enough that they know their pensions are about gone.

            We need the rule of law reestablished and the laws drawn up by constitutional patriots that understand the limits placed on government.

          • What does Detroit have to do with Iowa City?

            Anyways. Yes new laws established would be a good thing. We can get rid of these stupid drug laws

          • You asked a question, and I answered it.

            And just having more 'new' laws solves nothing if they aren't replacing the bad ones and unless they respect the limits government has on it.

            And if you want to advocate for legal recreational drugs what does that have to do with anything in this story?

          • Here is the question I asked
            "How informed are liberals in the biggest party town in the country though?"

            I never mentioned Detroit, please stay on topic.

            We need new laws like not being illegal to feed homeless people in the park and taking a man to trial for rasing chickens in his backyard

          • And I answered.
            You just haven't been able to keep up. All union retirees see the news on detroit and viola! They are informed and my comment was an answer that you didn't expect and just didn't manage to figure out.

          • This story is about an Iowa City man and has NOTHING to do with Detroit.

            How informed are liberals in Iowa City is what I asked. Iowa City is the biggest party town in the country. Sorry I confused you.

            Can you show all union retirees in Iowa City saw the news on Dertoit?

            Can you prove they are informed?

          • Why are you here?

            If you can't understand and keep up with the responses to your comments, perhaps other forums might be a better fit.

          • I am here for discussion. You claim that al Iowa City liberlas are informed about things happening in Detroit. Well prove it

          • Do they have media outlets in Iowa City?

            I would say that if they don't they have media outlets that reach the city and Detroit is something that they may have heard about.

          • Well the chicken incident really has nothing to with Detroit

          • Wee, it was an answer to a question you asked. Don't blame me.

            One will lead the citizens to be informed, and the other will show them to be wary of an over promising government.

            I still don't see why you're so confused.

          • Not confused. Detroit has nothing to do with Iowa City. You failed to show how the two stories connect in any way.

          • Actually, this is about AN Iowa city, not Iowa CIty. It's in Northwood, Iowa. The author is just an idiot. This does not negate your point, however.

          • Thank you for the correction

      • Why? I don't recall that in the the commandments or natural law. I don't remember signing up to be a slave to the American Empire.

        • We have laws and they need to be followed. Like I said this law is BS. The point I was trying to make is that roger supports our justice sytem when it comes to laws he agrees with.

          As far as your commadments comment, that is funny.

  2. Leo Hendrick needs to check out the states right to farm laws. These are usually in place to protect hoby farms and cottage industry from just this type of tyranny.

  3. This isn't in Iowa City. It's in Northwood, Iowa, an Iowa city. The author is just an idiot.

  4. Leo, call the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund ( They help people win this exact fight. If you can’t afford the $40 to join the organization, tell them I will pay it. This is their reason for existing. They can win this for you.

    • Sally- He is a farmer(producer) which means his membership fee is a $125 per year. I've encouraged Leo to allow donations for his legal fees, membership, etc. as a lot of these cases can become quite long and difficult. I've also encouraged him to set up a local support network in his community so that he has the "boots on the ground" needed with yard signs, etc. showing support.

  5. Leo, call the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (

  6. I am all about freedoms, you bought the house 5 years ago I feel you should have looked at the ordinances then. I would not want a stinking chicken coupe right next to my house either that is why I bought a house and land in the country. I am sympathetic to wanting to raise your on food trust me I know what garbage they put in food and I try to live a self sustaining lifestyle as well but I live in the country with plenty of land and no ordinances to block what I do. And for everyone who wants to bash me, I am a disabled veteran and I fought for your right to be free but there is a limit to certain freedoms lets be sensible.

    • WHAT limits? Don't tell me about how you fought for our freedoms but there are limits. YOU FOUGHT TO UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION..PERIOD… READ IT. It says he has the right to pursue life….he can feed himself, it is his inherent right to survive. For those who don't want to see chickens next door to them…grow up…that's what food looks like.

  7. Thank you Mikael for this article and thank you Leo for speaking out and not just rolling over to a governing body. First off, there's always more to the story. I think we can all agree. We probably won't get the whole picture here, and that's okay. I think Mikael did a more than sufficient job of giving us the gist of the story. This story lit my interest and I believe that fulfills its purpose. Now on to Mr Hendricks predicament. This subject can be a tough one. I strongly encourage everyone to strive for a self sustaining lifestyle and stand up for the tenets of the U.S. Constitution. There just seems to be more to this story. What'd I tell ya? So then, what led the city council to be aware of this in the first place? If the neighbors approve then I think we're talking about some disgruntled city council person. What led them to be disgruntled? Is the council trying to just flex it's muscle to prove it's validity? There's usually a base motive here, and it's rarely altruistic. That's why I can believe that it's not Leo who is in the wrong. Yes he could have looked into these ordinances prior to moving, and yes he can move out of this area now knowing what he knows about them and this council. But if the council has the power to overlook this why hasn't it done so? The mayor's comments are very telling of the apparent mindset that this governing body has. “The mayor even told me that government intruding into lives like this was okay and needed, which I didn’t agree with.”
    …and guess what Leo?…Neither do I. I daresay that most Americans would not agree, but then we seem to be entering into another age of sheepdom. Just say baa and nobody will get hurt. But I digress. Suffice it to say Leo, I think the founding fathers would throw this out as trivial and unnecessarily intrusive…especially in light of the way in which the chickens are enclosed (Thanks for the pictures.). Keep fighting the good fight Leo. God bless you and your family as you move forward this Christmas. And that goes for us all.

  8. When this man goes to trial, I hope he has the option of a jury trial.

    He needs to have a jury of his peers make this call.

  9. I've connected Mr. Hendrick with FTCLDF (Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, The Rutherford Institute, the Iowa VFW and others who can help support him. The key point is that our highest unemployment rate in this country is in our young vets. Here is a man that is the epitome of what makes America great- a small business owner who believes in trying to be self-sufficient rather than taking unemployment and food stamps. So what is the city inadvertently trying to do? Shut down his ability to provide his family food AND attempt to put a ban against guns in city limits that would make his business illegal (fortunately unsuccessful so far). IF YOU SUPPORT him, please start sharing his story far & wide. He needs a large uprising of support from the grass roots level. Come up with T-Shirt Slogans, etc. GET THE WORD OUT- LEO IS A HERO!

  10. Not all chickens stink, I have 16 chickens and rabbits on a little over an acre. If you keep things clean and bury the waste when you do so. It will make great compost for your garden and the smell will hardly be noticed. You can even create a septic system, like the doggy disposal systems so you don't have to dig things up every time. Just open the hatch and through the waste in. Close the hatch and the smell with it. Maybe there needs to be some guidelines around how to own chickens in the city. Like no roosters and possibilities on how to keep the smell down. With our food and economy in such a mess. I think we really need to make it possible for everyone to be able to own at least a few chickens or rabbits. Puts less strain on the economy and people more control over their food.

  11. I'm all for food self-sufficiency. But the ordinances were there when he bought the house and he should have paid attention. I live in a town, and I'm not allowed to raise chickens in my back yard. If you want to be a poultry farmer, move to a place where it is allowed (ie. The Country).

    As for not being allowed by the judge to bring up the benefits of growing his own food, this is not unusual in the law. It's not relevant to the case other than as a motive; the court needs to know nothing more about it. And no judge in America is going to buy the argument of, "Well, other towns allow it." Yours does not, and it was in the law when you bought the home. Just pay the fine and move to a place where your lifestyle is legally acceptable, and there are plenty of communities where it is.

    • I don't know about you, but some of us have to work. Can you please explain how the thousands of those like myself can all have a place in the country when the availability of land in the country is very limited. Bear in mind that you also explain how a person can afford the gas to commute 1-2 hours each way on a daily basis to get to and from work. Also explain how a person, like myself, who can just afford a $70,000 home is supposed to afford $200,000 for a few acres in the country. Also keep in mind that the farm land around metropolitan areas that are being sold off in 4-5 acre lots are generally coming with HOA restrictions to prevent farming practices. It seems the wealthy city-dwellers are migrating to mini-estates. It is ridiculous. Everywhere you see homes in the country surrounded by huge "lawns", no barns or outbuildings and no animals in sight….No people in sight either. It is just city people with houses on big lots outside the city with no clue how to live in the country and who never go outside, sitting in front of their bigscreen TV's getting fat on pre-packaged foods. As a result, they drive up the prices of real estate so much that anyone of simple means cannot afford a small piece of land close to the city to continue working and doing a little supplemental farming.

  12. With our food and economy in such a mess. I think we really need to make it possible for everyone to be able to own at least a few chickens or rabbits. Puts less strain on the economy and people more control over their food. When this man goes to trial, I hope he has the option of a jury trial.

  13. Richard, I don't believe you are a disabled vet. You sir, are a coward and a liar who wants us all to "bend over" in the face of tyranny. This family should be left alone and in peace.

  14. I am sympathetic to wanting to raise your on food trust me I know what garbage they put in food and I try to live a self sustaining lifestyle as well but I live in the country with plenty of land and no ordinances to block what I do.

    • For now that is–just wait until the big farms next door to you do not want to comply with your request that they do not spray over your organic fields….after all, they are getting the HUGE subsidies from this federal government and also the seed companies to whom they are in hock. it all starts in the cities, then the towns, then the real rural areas. It's like an infection.

  15. I am glad you have been so fortunate as to be able to afford a place in "the country with plenty of land". It sounds very Posh. Unfortunately, the thousands of others like myself living paycheck-to-paycheck cannot afford such luxury, but find it increasingly necessary to find ways to reduce food costs, eat healthier and increase self-sufficiency. I live in Kansas City, MO which recently passed ordinance changes allowing front yard gardens and keeping of small animals with sensible restrictions, i.e. limits on the number of animals, no odor problems and management of waste produced. Using the Deep Litter Method, I will easily be able in a small area to keep about 30 chickens without any odor nuisance and at the same time producing an incredibly rich compost for the garden. I will also be able to keep about 30 meat rabbits. I hope this city council can be educated on sensible practices of keeping animals within the city and in turn come to their senses themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *