Lesson 1124 – Smelly Chicken Coop – what a neighbor can do.

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I recently got this email from a reader who is having problems with his close neighbor’s smelly chicken coop. Read the letter, my reply, and if you have any suggestions, please let us know.
Problems with backyard poultry smell

I’m hoping you can help me with a desperate quandary I have regarding my neighbors.  They have a coop and it is SO smelly.  The backyards are not big and they do have it as far away as they can, maybe 50 yards away from my backyard (maybe less), but the smell is so atrocious that I can’t use my backyard, screened in porch or even open the windows in the back of the house because it smells so bad.  I spent the evening yesterday cooking in the kitchen with the only window in the kitchen shut because I couldn’t take the smell anymore.  It was barely perceptible last year but this year it seems to be omnipresent especially in the afternoons and evenings.  It is especially rough lacking any central a/c as we need to be able to open our windows.

I really don’t care if they have chickens or not.  I don’t hear them and they don’t seem to have a lot.  I get it might make sense for them and times are rough all over but I’m feeling like I’m under assault in my own home.  Any advice would be so welcome, Thanks!
Responsible chicken care
Chicken noise and smell is a HUGE thing in residential flocks and if complained about enough, it could cause a ban on chickens for those who have close neighbors. While I believe that we have a right to have chickens, I also believe that we have an obligation to respect our neighbors’ peace and property. We have 27 chickens and our coop does not smell, in fact, we have dinner in our backyard every night, the coop in question must have a lot of moisture in it. Here’s my reply.

First, where are you located? Asking this to know if zoning allows for chickens.

That’s a very tough situation. I believe that everyone has the right to have chickens but that everyone also has the right to peace and quiet (which includes smell-free) in their back yard. I believe that reasonable peace in your house and yard trumps your neighbors having chickens.

In our town, we recently had a resident approach the town council about a rooster ban. His neighbor has two roosters that crow night and day. He can no longer use his backyard – that’s a problem. Our town is zoned agricultural and so we can’t have a ban on roosters. That’s not going to help this guy.

I spoke in favor of including roosters in a noise ordinance – roosters are a big problem in residential flocks. If you have the land, then go for roosters, if you have close neighbors, then no – you shouldn’t be allowed to have

roosters. End of story.

If the smell is that bad (recognizing that at some times the smell will be worse than others, particularly when there is the spring muck out), then the first thing to do is talk to your neighbors. I know, I know, no one likes confrontation but brush up on your best negotiation skills.

Approach them by first saying you don’t mind that they have chickens but that the smell is affecting your use of your yard and that it is starting to be a problem. Don’t threaten, don’t say that you’ll call the police, offer to give them time to come up with a solution (1-2 weeks is fair.)
If they are sensible, they will try to do something.
If they are not sensible they will ignore you (and give us chicken owners a bad name.) At that point you can contact the city or town health department  to  do a site visit in order to determine if there are any health code violations. (which, if there is a strong smell, I’m willing to bet that there may be.)
If the health department gets involved, prepare to lose the good graces of your neighbors, but from the sound of it, that may not be such a big loss.
Good luck and let me know what happens. I’ll put this question and answer on my blog to see if anyone else has some suggestions.
So how about it gang, any words of advice? How do you curtail the smell?

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Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

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4 Comments

Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Coop care, Living Tiny in a Big House, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Lesson 1124 – Smelly Chicken Coop – what a neighbor can do.

  1. You curtail the smell by using the deep litter method. Three or four bails of shavings (unless it is a huge chicken house) should give 3-4 inches of bedding. The most important part is to use a manure fork and cover the fresh droppings each morning, after the chickens have left the roost. Also, very, very important, the shavings must be kept dry. Regards, Shingalo at barx ranch, Winchester, VA.

  2. Pingback: Lesson 1223 – Chickens in towns? Heck yes! | Lessons Learned from the Flock

  3. I am glad to read the above question and response, we have neighbors that own chickens and the smell is unreal. My fiancee doesn’t want to say anything but you can not sit on the porch nor in the yard without the awful smell. I am going to speak with them about it this evening. We should not have to endure the odor all summer long.

  4. Sorry, you are not allowed to have a sense of smell. Living in stink, rot and filth is the new moral high ground; your desire to live relatively stench-free is thought of among the chicken-folk as a mental disorder. Some chicken keepers say “there should be no smell”, then describe levels of endless, cleaning that your neighbors will never adopt – because they don’t see a problem in their yard. If you complain, they will think you are mentally ill – or perhaps they will decide that you are just a stooge of corporate mind-think. At any rate, you loose.

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