This proposed ordinance was recently suggested by a resident of our town who is having rooster difficulties with an abutting neighbor. This resident claimed that he could no longer use his outside deck due to the noise (apparently there are two roosters who are competing with each other) and his sleep is being interrupted.
This is what he came up with (although he admits that he didn’t know the proper wording and was more interested in getting help from the town because, as it stood, rooster crowing was not covered under any noise ordinance.)
Proposed ordinance: Prohibit roosters/male birds within the Town limits, whether for a student project, as pets, for food, or for any other purpose.
Prohibit roosters/male birds on properties abutted by or area residential property, whether for a student project, as pets, for food, or any other purpose.
Make no mistake about it, living in close proximity to a rooster can be miserable. With the continued interest in backyard poultry, more and more people are going to find themselves with roosters in their flocks (some by accident, some not.)
A year ago, in Connecticut, a neighbor tried to poison an abutting neighbor’s flock because the rooster noise was intolerable (we are not talking about a bucolic crow in the distance, we’re talking about an ear-splitting howl at all times of the day and night.)
This past summer, a resident of Massachusetts tried to poison his neighbor’s flock due to the rooster noise problem.
In both cases, the neighbors had gone to the town and police about the noise but because roosters are not covered under most town ordinances, there was nothing that could be done.
Desperation causes people to do desperate things. I’m not condoning this behavior, but I am saying that I can understand the frustration.
If you are going to have chickens in a residential setting, you have an obligation to your neighbors to keep the noise down. People who continue to have roosters or who ignore this by saying, my right to have chickens trumps your right to quiet, give all of us chicken owners a bad name.
This is what I read to our town council in response to the proposed ordinance:
My name is Wendy Thomas, I am a resident of Merrimack and I teach the chicken workshops for Merrimack’s adult education. I own a flock of chickens and I write about chickens for various magazines including Grit, Mother Earth News, and Backyard Poultry.
I absolutely agree with the *intent* of the proposed ordinance concerning roosters, however, the way it is written causes me not to support it.
One thing that I stress in my chicken classes is that if you live in a residential area, you have no business having a rooster. I advise my class participants to only consider roosters if they have 5 or more acres of land.
Chickens are a thrifty way to get clean food, it’s a way to re-establish our connection to food. These days many people raise chickens as pets and because chicks do not have external genitalia – unless they are sex-linked, you might not know you have a rooster literally until the cock crows.
There are ways to keep roosters quiet, in an article I wrote for Backyard Poultry – I outlined various techniques that some people are willing to use, including taking the bird into a garage at night, surgically removing vocal chords, and wearing a No Crow Collar. If you are able to keep your rooster quiet, then he should be allowed in your flock.
There are various other special conditions regarding fowl:
It is not unheard of (and I have such a case right now in my flock) where an alpha hen can become a rooster. They begin throwing off testosterone and exhibit male behavior and plumage. Sometimes these hens even start crowing – technically this is not a rooster. The ordinance would not cover this potentially noisy situation.
Guinea fowl are great for eating ticks but they are very loud birds (male and female) the way this ordinance is written, the females would be allowed but the males wouldn’t be – which is not too helpful for close neighbors.
I had one neighbor who went out of her way to tell me that she loved our rooster crowing, it reminded her of her youth. Should you have to get rid of your rooster if your neighbors don’t mind?
Likewise, if you own a significant amount of land, is it really fair to say that you can’t have roosters?
In our town you are allowed to raise chickens (and livestock) however, your neighbors have an absolute right to peace and quiet in their homes. Just like parents can be more tolerant of their children’s behavior, chicken owners tend to be more tolerant of their flock’s behavior – including crowing – but make no mistake, roosters in a residential area are a problem.
So how do we find a happy medium?
One way is through education. People need to know that you do not need a rooster to get eggs, you only need a rooster to get chicks. People who want to get chickens should have a local repository of information they can use and/or contact for information on chickens.
Including fowl in a noise ordinance is fair. But if you have a noisy bird, I would hope that any kind of penalty would come with a warning period for the owner to find a home or to ethically dispose of the bird. Without such a grace period, I fear that owners may panic and many roosters will be abandoned in the woods, drowned in the river, or inhumanely killed in order to comply.
We want to eliminate and reduce the noise but we certainly don’t want any animals to have to suffer as a result.
I would suggest that a list of resources to help the owner remove the birds be provided – these resources can include links to Craigslist, a chicken network, a humane society, or culling services.
Anyone who has taken my class has access to my culling services. It’s not something that I like to do but I’d rather put a bird down humanely (whether it is sick, injured or a rooster) than let it suffer.
In summary, I believe that the wording of the proposed ordinance be changed to the following:
• The term “noisy fowl” or” birds” be used instead of “roosters/male birds”
• Make no mention of a town-wide ban
• A grace period be instituted to allow proper removal of any noisy bird
• A process be put in place to give chicken owners information on ways to remove birds
What are your thoughts, fellow chicken owners, on roosters in *residential* where neighbors live close to each other?