A report in the New York Times tells the story of a Brooklyn community which has turned neighbor against neighbor — all because of this Warren-St. Mark’s community backyard decision to temporarily home eight hens. The chicken war between the urban farmers and longtime residents of this area brings up a problem: How can you maintain the peace while raising backyard chickens?
Photographer and chicken keeper Amy Renea says it starts with neighborly acts: advanced notice to neighbors and strategic coop placement go a long way in keeping the peace. She houses her chickens in a far corner lot on her property where neighbors can’t see, smell or hear the chickens when they’re cooped up. The hens roam free when they are released from the coop, and although they generally stick near her property, the cluckers sometimes drift to a neighbor’s lot. “We find the best way to fight any issues is using a giant basket of eggs every once in a while,” Renea says.
Here are additional strategies for keeping things neighborly.
Keep neighbors informed. Lyanda Haupt, that has been keeping chickens for more than 12 years, sought her out neighbors’ ideas before building a coop in her Seattle lawn. “I told them about what we were planning to do and asked what they thought about it. Once people are informed, they will determine that real safety and health concerns are minimal,” she says.
Leslie Divoll did the specific opposite in her beachfront Florida community. She retains her coop a mystery since the neighbors complain at the drop of a hat, she says.
For Gwen Weerts, consulting neighbors about the left, right and right behind is essential, but she admits that living in the “crunchy” city (her description) of Bellingham, Washington, ensures that more people are supportive of agriculture. “I can see how urban areas without much exposure to small-scale agriculture could have these community flare-ups because of misinformation,” she says.
Check city ordinances. Kathy Siegel, that used to have a coop in Los Angeles, underscores the importance of adhering to city ordinances. “You don’t wish to be in the wrong when your pets’ lives are at stake. In L.A., they have ordinances that say no roosters could be maintained, that limit the hens to five only and dictate clear space minimums between the coop and your neighbor’s home,” says Siegel.
Most chicken keepers will tell you assessing ordinances can prove to be difficult when chickens are involved, since rules concerning chickens may fall under pet, noise or small livestock ordinances. “The Backyard Chickens website has a fantastic choice of city ordinances regarding domesticated fowl. I would check there,” says Weerts.
Anticipate noise and odor issues. Although Divoll retains her coop a secret from her neighbors, she proposes having only hens in the coop for noise reduction. And if you keep cows or cows, more means more noise and odor; limit a backyard coop to five to make sure less noise. “I’d also strictly adhere to an odor-free practice,” she says. “It is very easy to do. Individuals who don’t pick up their pet’s poop have stinkier lawns compared to people who have chicken coops.”
Strategize your coop’s location and design. Screen chickens from street perspective and from the perspective of neighbors’ dogs, which might become barking nuisances if they are not utilized to seeing chickens.
“Our neighbor didn’t wish to see that the coop, so we lowered our coop’s roof to them,” says Shannon Demma, that keeps chickens in Santa Cruz, California. “We maintain the coop in a completely enclosed lawn, so from the outside you don’t even know it is there. After watching us chickens, our neighbors now have their very own coops.”
Some chicken keepers purposely assemble coops without windows and lock their chickens in nightly. Haupt says they’re quieter in the dark, and that she doesn’t let them out until after 8% to maintain early-morning clucking from waking the neighbors.
Know how to manage predators and rodents. Keeping a sterile coop reduces troubles, but occasionally leftover food onto the ground still can encourage mice — nothing which a cat can’t handle. “In an urban setting, I would definitely suggest daily crossing of any spilled or spilled food to avoid rodents,” says Amy Renea.
A high-security coop can defend chickens against predators, like skunks and raccoons. But keeping the area inside and outside the home clean ought to still be a high priority. The effort of keeping up a home is well worth it for these chicken keepers, who state that the cluckers are becoming part of their family. “My children play together; they supply wonderful fresh eggs; they eat our scraps and create compost for our backyard. We feel very blessed to have them,” says Demma.
“I feel like having a flock of hens harkens back to days when most folks had a vegetable patch, evenings were spent collectively on the porch and acquaintances spoke to one another over their fences,” says Weerts. “Chicken possession is an excellent reminder that we ought to go back to this”
Tell us Do you maintain backyard chickens? Please show us your coop and share your experience in the Comments below.
The Scoop on Chicken Coops
Chicken Coops That Rule the Roost