By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Town officials are pondering what’s fair where fowl are concerned.
Planning Board members are once again looking at the town’s animal ordinance to see what regulations could be updated to keep control of neighborhoods where property owners keep chickens and roosters.
This comes after several residents complained earlier this year about the foul and fowl problems coming from a chicken coop next door.
In 2009, Derry enacted an updated animal ordinance which covers livestock, including roosters and chickens. But some rules need to be tightened up, officials say.
Some residents are saying existing rules aren’t being followed.
Phillip Bruno said his Windham Road neighborhood is being held prisoner by one neighbor’s noisy rooster.
“I know you can’t stop people from having roosters, but at least have some kind of control to house them at night,” he told town officials. “This is ridiculous, this is insane. ... In my case, the chicken coop is like 50 feet from our bedroom window; it’s crazy.”
Right now, residents need at least 1 acre to house any agricultural livestock, including horses, cows and sheep. All fowl pens kept on fewer than 2 acres are required to have wire mesh or poly-mesh roofs.
All animals must be enclosed so they cannot escape and trespass on public or private property. Enclosures must be 20 feet from a neighbor’s property line.
Bruno’s neighbor is following the rules when it comes to his lot size and coop location.
But it’s the rooster that makes for some sleepless nights.
Bruno isn’t alone.
Neighbors Richard Tripp and Maureen Heard also complained to the Town Council.
Heard lives at 52 Windham Road and said the rooster is very loud.
“I live next to Mr. Bruno; it is a very loud rooster, “ she said. “It definitely keeps my family up, wakes us up early in the morning.”
Heard served on the Planning Board for a while during the town’s animal ordinance work years ago.
“It is a public nuisance,” Heard said. “It wakes us up at 3 or 4 a.m. It is a real frustration.”
It’s also about what constitutes a “public nuisance” when people like Heard start to complain. That could be not only noise from animals, but odors from manure or other items being stockpiled on someone’s property.
“You can’t blame the rooster for the problem,” Town Councilor Al Dimmock said. “The problem is the person who owns the rooster.”
By updating the ordinance, town officials may have more teeth for enforcing animal rules.
“It’s a tough situation,” Code Enforcement Director Bob Mackey said.
Derry has a lot of agriculture and rural areas, he said, and many people keep animals.
Livestock is also seen in more residential neighborhoods.
In Londonderry, the ordinance requires a minimum of 2 acres to keep chickens and other livestock.
Rules there have been strictly enforced.
One Londonderry resident, Jay Barrett of Wiley Hill Road, almost had enough property to keep a beloved horse — 1.6 acres as opposed to the 2-acre rule — but zoning officials denied his request for a variance to keep the animal earlier this year.
Mackey said it comes down to defining what a public nuisance truly is and getting it down on paper.
He said he will check the rules in other towns and officials will then talk about their options for adding new language or updating the animal laws.