Whether a Buzzards Bay family will be allowed to keep its rooster and chickens remains uncertain. The Rubinstein family’s request for a variance to the Bourne Board of Health’s amended poultry regulations has been continued to the board’s next meeting. At the June 25 board meeting, members decided they want to hear more expert testimony and advice before rendering a decision on whether to grant the variance.
Ian L. and Belinda L. Rubinstein of King Arthur Way have appealed a recent department of health order that they remove all chickens and roosters from their property. The couple started keeping the birds about two years ago.
The Rubinsteins are very active with the 4H Club of Barnstable County. Also, 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, and the family sells both the eggs and the chicks for additional income.
The board of health issued the order after receiving a complaint from neighbors Anthony R. and Claudia Rotondi about the rooster’s crowing being a noise nuisance. Wednesday night, Ms. Rotondi described the crowing as “a shrieking, offensive sound” and told the board that it goes on throughout the day.
“That sound goes right through you,” she said.
Mr. Rubinstein told the board that the roosters are not let out of their coop until after the time that it would be expected they would make noise. He noted that roosters typically crow at 5 or 6 in the morning when the sun comes up. Their roosters are not released until 8:30 in the morning or later.
“People are up, out or gone in most cases,” he said.
Resident Maureen A. King, whose property on Chartwell Drive abuts the Rubinsteins affirmed Ms. Rotondi’s noise nuisance claim. Ms. King said that she works during the day, but when she is home she does hear the rooster crowing.
“I’ve had to get up and close my windows because of the crowing. If windows or sliders are open, I can hear it; if I’m out in the yard I can hear it,” she said, adding that guests have been startled by how loud the crowing can be.
Ms. Rotondi explained that, in addition to the noise, the Rubinsteins were in violation of the town’s newly amended regulations regarding the keeping of roosters. Ms. Rotondi noted that under the new policies, roosters are not permitted on property less than two acres. The Rubinsteins’ property is less than half an acre. She added that the chicken coop also does not meet the guidelines of being less than 100 feet from a place that people inhabit, and 50 feet from adjoining property lines.
“So I don’t understand why any of these reasons are invalid,” she said, regarding enforcement of the new regulations.
Board member Stanley J. Andrews explained that the Rubinsteins have been keeping the roosters and chickens for a couple of years and the regulations were adopted last September. The Rubinsteins were grandfathered and had the right to request a variance to the new policies, Mr. Andrews said.
Member Kelly A. Mastria challenged Ms. Rotondi’s claim that the coop was less than 50 feet from the Rotondis’ property line. Ms. Mastria said that she did a site visit and by her estimation the coop met the 50 feet or beyond regulation.
Ms. Mastria and fellow board member Galon L. (Skip) Barlow suggested there might be noise mitigation measures that could be adopted to cut down on the decibel level of the rooster’s crowing. Mr. Barlow said landscaping the Rubinsteins could incorporate on their property might hold down the noise.
The board decided that they would like to hear more on potential noise mitigation solutions from Cape & Islands Farm Bureau president James B. Knieriem. Mr. Knieriem attended the board of health’s meeting on June 11 and spoke in defense of the care and practices the Rubinsteins use in keeping their chickens and rooster.
“We’ve addressed noise issues many times with landscaping and trees and arborvitaes and things like that, and it’s been effective and everybody’s come away happy, so we’d like to hear from him,” Mr. Barlow said.
The case has been continued to the board of health meeting on July 9. The board encouraged the Rubinsteins to ask Mr. Knieriem to attend, or that he provide them with a written plan they can present to the board for how to cut down on the noise.