Which came first, the chickens or the subdivisions?
Derry Planning Board members are weighing potential changes to the town’s livestock ordinance, prompted, in part, by repeated complaints from Windham Road residents about a particularly vocal rooster.
It seems the unwelcome bird has plenty to crow about and does so at all hours of the day and night.
But planners would do well to tread lightly.
Officials in a number of Southern New Hampshire towns find themselves talking chickens and geese more often than they might prefer.
With a sagging economy, rising grocery prices and a desire for farm-to-table food, more residents are looking at adding a coop to the backyard and a few hens to provide fresh eggs.
The trouble arises when the neighbors prefer a trip to Market Basket and object to the philosophy that a flock in every yard is a good thing.
Londonderry requires 2 acres for a single hen and officials there stick to their guns. When Thornton Road resident Fritz Brown pleaded for the chance to keep three chickens on his 1-acre lot, planners there told him to try Egg Beaters.
That’s taking things a bit far. Just ask Windham officials and residents, who voted at Town Meeting to loosen a similar ordinance.
That’s smart. So, too, is Derry’s current ordinance.
As it stands, Derry residents need just an acre of land to keep chickens or other traditional barnyard animals in the back yard.
As self important as the king of the barnyard may be, there’s no specific mention of roosters. Therein lies the problem and some residents are crying “fowl.”
The Windham Road residents who wake to a natural, but unwelcome alarm at 3 a.m. deserve some consideration, too.
If Derry wants to make a change, keep roosters out of the coop — or in it and farther away from the property line than the 20 feet now required.
When East Derry resident Erica Doyon’s brood of 18 hens turned out to include two roosters, she did the neighborly thing: She got rid of them. (There’s a thought, a rooster in every pot.)
If people aren’t neighborly, then rules and regulations have to come into play. But Derry shouldn’t take it too far.
In a community that holds the potato in such high esteem and works hard to conserve land, restricting residents from raising a few chickens or the stray sheep or cow doesn’t make sense.
If regulations become too restrictive, the only barnyard animals anyone will see will be those in the petting “zoo” at J&F Farms.
That would be a real shame.
Of course, if more people turn to raising chickens to guarantee the freshest of eggs, the town’s fox and coyote populations may start to grow. But as far as we know, no municipality has any rules that would apply to them, so chicken farmers beware and make those coops secure.