Bourne Family Fights To Keep Its Fowl

MICHAEL J. RAUSCH/ENTERPRISE - The Rubinstein family Ian (left), Belinda, Foster and Merrick show their rooster, Fluff, to Kelly Mastria of the Bourne Board of Health.MICHAEL J. RAUSCH/ENTERPRISE - Foster Rubinstein with the family's rooster, Fluff.

A Buzzards Bay family will have to make their case for keeping the chickens and roosters they are raising in their yard on King Arthur Way.

A neighbor complained to the town about the noise that the birds engender.

After reviewing the facts in the case last week, the Bourne Board of Health has scheduled a public hearing to further consider the matter. 

The Rubinstein family, Ian L., Belinda L. and their sons, 9th grader Merrick and 6th grader Foster, all went before the health board June 11 to appeal a recent Bourne Department of Health ruling ordering the removal of all chickens and roosters from their property. Instead of enforcing the health department order, the board of health voted to continue the case until June 25 and hold a public hearing.

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Board chairman Kathleen M. Peterson said that no one on the board wants to prevent the Rubinsteins from keeping the roosters and chickens. However, the board still needed to take into consideration that a nuisance complaint had been filed, and the best way to handle the matter would be to continue the case to the board’s next meeting on Wednesday, June 25, and hold a public hearing.

“I hate for you to go through this process, but I believe it’s the only way you’re going to get any peace,” she said.

The Rubinsteins were issued the order after the board of health received a letter of complaint from neighbors Anthony R. and Claudia Rotondi.

In their letter, the Rotondis complained that the Rubinsteins were in violation of the town’s newly amended regulations regarding the keeping of roosters. The Rotondis said that under the new policies, roosters are not permitted on property less than two acres. The Rubinsteins’ property is less than half an acre.

The chicken coop also does not meet the guidelines of being 100 feet from a place that people inhabit, and 50 feet from adjoining property lines.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Rotondi said that the Rubinsteins’ rooster is outside crowing all day, and she and her husband cannot sit on their deck “because of the piercing noise.”

In a letter to the board of health, submitted prior to the meeting, Mr. and Ms. Rubinstein explained that they started keeping the chickens and rooster about two years ago. The Rubinstein family is very active with the 4H Club of Barnstable County, and Ms. Rubinstein, a biology professor, uses the fertilized eggs to demonstrate embryology to 4H members.

The birds are also shown at fairs and festivals, such as the Barnstable County Fair, where they win prize money, and the family sells both the eggs and the chicks for additional income. In addition, the Rubinsteins’ sons are learning responsibility by caring for the livestock.

In their letter, the Rubinsteins also explained that a rooster only crows a few times before it stops, unlike a dog that may bark incessantly. The crowing is done to ward off potential predators in the area, and has actually saved the family’s chickens from hawks, turkeys, coyotes and weasels. A rooster may also crow at the sound of a loud noise such as a motorcycle revving or a lawnmower in use, but “they do not crow over and over again all day.”

Board member Galon L. (Skip) Barlow commented that the Rubinsteins’ sons work hard at keeping the family’s chickens and roosters healthy.

“I’m not happy that we have to get involved in this. It’s really unfair to you guys,” he said.

Board member Kelly A. Mastria, who made a site visit to the Rubinsteins’ home on behalf of the Bourne Board of Health, said she did not see a problem with the family having chickens on their property. Ms. Mastria said the coop that the chickens are housed in is very clean and well maintained, and it is tucked away in the far left corner of the family’s yard. The Rotondis’ property is to the right, she said. She added that there is a wooded area between the Rubinsteins’ and the Rotondis’ homes.

“You’d have to look very hard to see their house from their yard and vice versa,” she said.

Asked if anyone else has complained about the noise, Ms. Rotondi said that two other neighbors signed an affidavit for the Rubinsteins stating that they had no issue with the chickens and roosters. Ms. Rotondi said both homeowners told her they were unaware of the updated bylaws and felt tricked by the Rubinsteins.

However, in a telephone interview the day after the hearing, Bourne Department of Health director Cynthia A. Coffin confirmed that there were signed affidavits on file in the health department from two other neighbors, John M. Chaves and Allen D. Parsons. Reached by phone, Mr. Parsons said that he has never had a problem with the Rubinsteins’ roosters. Mr. Parsons said that he has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, and he has never found the roosters and chickens to be obnoxious or intrusive.

“I hear them once in a while, but it’s not an ongoing thing. It doesn’t bother me,” he said.

Attempts to reach Mr. Chaves for comment for this article were not successful.

A public hearing on the Rubinsteins’ appeal of the board of health’s order will be held June 25  at 7 o’clock in the lower conference room at Bourne Town Hall.

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