It has come to my attention that a group in Deltona, Florida has taken a portion of one of my blog posts regarding a solitary situation with a smelly coop and they are using it to support their arguments for not allowing backyard chicken flocks in their town due to smell.
Utter hogwash. I write for Backyard Poultry Magazine, Mother Earth News, Grit, and I hold chicken workshops throughout New Hampshire. I am in complete support of towns (and in some cases, cities) allowing residents to maintain a backyard coop – definitely 100% in that court. It’s the reason I go around the state and teach people how to care for a backyard flock.
In the Deltona anti-chicken forum, someone posted the following portion of my post as proof that chicken smells are a problem:
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!
What the forum poster neglected to also post, was the *second* part of my blog post that offered a solution to that reader’s chicken smell problem.
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 lets you 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.
It’s important for residents of Deltona to know that in the 6 years I’ve been writing and teaching about chickens, that letter from my reader was the first time I had ever been sent a question about smell. 1 smell complaint in 6 years, that’s pretty good. Think about it, I know of dog owners that can’t go a week without someone commenting about how irritating their “damn dog” is.
The spring muck-out of which I refer to in my reply, is by all accounts is a smelly event. Yes it is. In order to protect our flocks in the northern states from the cold during the winter, we use a technique called deep-litter. We let the litter accumulate by continually adding to it and not removing any during the cold months. This adds insulation to the coop. When the winter is finally over, we give the coop a good spring cleaning and everything starts off fresh for the warmer months.
You’re just not going to see that situation in a coop located in Florida.
Current backyard flocks are not the flocks of your grandmothers. Few backyard chicken owners eat their birds these days and most rely on them for entertainment and eggs. I have found that people who choose to have chickens are those who care deeply about their birds. They want to know how to raise their poultry and they want to know how to properly take care of them – these are motivated owners who read poultry care books, go to workshops, and even attend poultry shows.
From my 6 years of experience owning, teaching and writing about chickens, I have nothing but positive things to say about chicken backyard owners and their flocks.
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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