Rutland hears complaints of fowl in the city

A chicken coop in Rutland is provoking questions and complaints about “nuisance” fowl within the city limits. Photo by Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
RUTLAND — Jeffrey Fredette told city officials this week he shouldn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to the crowing of his neighbor’s roosters every morning.

“We do pay a pretty healthy amount of taxes to live where we live,” Fredette said. “I just feel, personally, the city limits is no place for farm animals.”

Fredette and his wife, who live on Haywood Avenue, took their case to the city Charter and Ordinance Committee this week. Last month the couple aired their concerns to the Board of Aldermen, which referred the matter to the committee.

The property with the roosters is on Curtis Avenue, behind Fredette’s backyard.

The panel took no action this week, with members saying they want a process that’s already underway to play out first.

Michael Brookman, city health officer and assistant building inspector, has issued five municipal tickets over the past month to Zachary Fitch, the property owner on Curtis Avenue where the roosters and chickens are located.

Fitch did not attend the city committee meeting this week. He could not be reached for comment.

A fenced-in chicken coop is located in the backyard of Fitch’s property on Curtis Avenue, though Fredette at the meeting this week said the roosters and chickens have also been seen roaming free.

“It’s not working,” Fredette said of the fenced-in area.

Each ticket issued to Fitch carries a $50 fine. The listed violation is “crowing rooster.” Brookman said at the meeting he could issue a ticket each day until the “nuisance” is removed.

“(P)lease have all roosters removed from your property immediately as well as take necessary steps or measures to keep all fowl within enclosures,” Brookman wrote in a letter to Fitch. “Failure to do so can result in Municipal Fines of up to $50 per day.”

City ordinances do not specifically ban roosters.

An ordinance does read, “No fowl should be kept within such a place or manner as to be offensive or cause a nuisance to persons residing in the vicinity.”

Before issuing tickets, Brookman told the committee, he wrote the letter to Fitch seeking “voluntary compliance” on June 30.

“The office has received several complaints about chickens being kept at your above referenced property,” the letter stated. “After our conversation this morning my office has received more complaints from your neighbors and the Mayor’s office requesting that the Roosters be removed from your property.”

But more complaints kept coming, Brookman told the panel.

Committee members said that before deciding to make any ordinance changes, they wanted to follow the existing one.

“What I don’t want to do is overreact and just change things so that people can’t have chickens in city limits,” said Alderman William Notte, a committee member. “I think for people who want to keep a few chickens, have some laying hens or meat hens, I think that’s perfectly fine.”

However, the alderman added, he understood the complaints in this case, where neighbors report several chickens and three roosters on one property.

Notte called that scenario a “total headache” for the neighbors.

The current process allows Brookman to refer the matter to the city’s Animal Control Board, which consists of members of the Board of Aldermen. That panel can issue a “writ” and have the “nuisance” animals removed from a property, Alderman Ed Larson, a Charter and Ordinance Committee member, said at the meeting this week.

“What I don’t want to do is pull the rug out from any agency of the city already dealing with the issue,” Larson said. “That bothers me.”

Melinda Humphrey, a member of the Board of Aldermen and the ordinance committee, concurred with Notte and Larson.

“We haven’t really used up our options under the existing ordinance,” she said.

Fredette told the panel he has nothing against animals and grew up on a farm. He said he’s lived at his home in the city for more than two decades and this is the first year he can remember dealing with chickens and roosters in the neighborhood.

The smell and the daily morning crowing are just too much, Fredette added.

“It’s not right,” he said. “It’s the city. Where do we draw the line with farming in the city?”

Notte replied, “If they’re making noise at 5 in the morning, if you can smell the chicken droppings from your property, that’s an unacceptable situation.”

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Alan J. Keays

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  • Rich Lachapelle

    If the offending fowl were being kept by “New Americans” the Board of Aldermen would be bending over backwards to craft an ordinance to defend the practice. We can assume these urban farmers being hassled are not in that category.
    Backyard agriculture should be encouraged broadly wherever it is practiced, even in the big city. It doesn’t get any more localvore than that. Vermont law will soon prohibit tossing kitchen scraps in the landfill waste. Backyard composting should be encouraged as well to avoid trucking around stinky, rotting compostable refuse. Sure, compost and chickens can be smelly and noisy but deal with it for the planet’s sake. It’s part of the cycle of life.

    • Nate Wendt

      If you setup a compost correctly, there should be minimal to no smell outside of the immediate proximity.

      On another note, “New Americans” have nothing to do with this. This complaint would be taken seriously either way. In general farm animals, especially loud ones, are not permitted or acceptable within city limits. As with most cities, they usually do not observe lawful noise ordinances in place. Now, backyard agriculture in the forms of self sustainable vegetable growth should be encouraged, heavily. I think that if most people grew their own food it would be a benefit to the community. But animal husbandry should not be.

  • Peter Chick

    My great grandfather raised rabbits for meat when he was living in Brooklyn.

  • Scott Kay

    “The property with the roosters is on Curtis Avenue, behind Fredette’s backyard.”
    Who needs three roosters(or any!!!) for a backyard chicken coop?

  • Ali Bernard

    It’s amazing that a Vermont city gets up in arms about an arguably useful keeping of animals, but rarely does anything about barking dogs, the biggest ruiner of peace in the neighborhood.

  • Nate Wendt

    Because dogs can, a majority of time, be trained to defecate in a controlled environment. They can in general be trained to behave and not bark at all hours. Also, if a dog is barking at night, you get fined for noise ordinance and if you do not control where they defecate or clean it up, you can also be fined. Animals which humanity uses as pets are commonly ones that can be easily maintained, trained, or otherwise are low in cost (This can vary, I know, but these are factors). Most farm animals cannot be trained in the same manner, and require specialized environments or even space requirements that a city cannot provide, whereas pets have been adapted to cohabitate in human urban environments and homes.