Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bianca Knows Best ... and Avoids Fowl Play

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Dear Bianca,

A couple of years ago, a new family moved in down the street from us in Cordova. So far, they have been good neighbors. They have made many improvements to the property and keep it looking neat on the outside.

However, a recent problem has arisen. It has become obvious by the crowing that I hear early in the morning that they are keeping chickens and a rooster. This violates our neighborhood covenants and possibly some local ordinance as well. To compound matters, these neighbors are immigrants whose English skills are weak at best, so communicating with them is difficult. How do you think I should handle this matter?

— Annoyed Neighbor

Dear Annoyed,

For a brief time when I was growing up, my family had a rooster and two chickens. I “rescued” them from the pet store one summer when my parents were at work. Though the ‘rents were a bit peeved to arrive home to baby chicks, the birds quickly became beloved family pets. Bonuses included the natural alarm clock and finding the occasional fresh egg in the yard.

Of course, the rooster (named Tweetie) didn’t always crow at the right time. Sometimes he’d signal the sun in the middle of the night. I’m a hard sleeper, but my dad occasionally complained. We lived on an acre of land surrounded by woods and fields, but I’m sure the rooster crowing is far more obnoxious in a tight housing community in the ‘burbs.

That said, there’s no Memphis ordinance banning chickens. According to UrbanChickens.org (a website for urban chicken owners), the Memphis city code only says that chicken feed must be kept in rat-proof containers and that the animals must not cause a noise disturbance. It sounds like the neighbors’ birds might be violating the latter law, and you’ve mentioned that your neighborhood group also has a ban on keeping fowl.

Have you taken your concern to the neighborhood association president? If not, that’d be a great first step. Whoever is in charge of enforcing neighborhood rules would then be responsible for dealing with the neighbors. Perhaps they could find a translator.

If that doesn’t work, you might try complaining to city code enforcement. I would think noise disturbances would fall under their purview. But before you complain to the authorities, consider what will happen to those chickens if they’re taken away from their owners. They’ll likely be euthanized. Is a small bit of annoyance worth taking a life over? The neighbors may be keeping the fowl for eggs with no intentions of slaughtering them.

I know my pet chickens were actually pretty smart. And believe it or not, they made great pets. My little 14-year-old heart would have been crushed if someone took my chickens away. Think before you act.

Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

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