Health Board Rules In Rooster's Favor

A Buzzards Bay family has been given approval to keep their pet rooster.

The Bourne Board of Health on Wednesday, July 9, ruled in favor of Ian L. and Belinda L. Rubinstein keeping a rooster at their property on King Arthur Way. The ruling granted the Rubinsteins a variance to the town’s recently updated poultry regulations.

The board of health issued an order to the Rubinsteins in May that they remove any chickens and roosters from their property. The board issued the order after receiving a complaint from neighbors about the rooster’s crowing being a noise nuisance. The neighbors said the Rubinsteins were in violation of the town’s newly amended poultry regulations, which prohibit the keeping of roosters on property less than two acres. The Rubinsteins’ property is less than half an acre. In addition, their chicken coop did not meet the guidelines of being less than 100 feet from a place inhabited by people, and 50 feet from adjoining property lines. The overriding complaint was the noise from the rooster crowing.

At their last meeting, members of the board of health requested that the Rubinsteins submit a noise mitigation plan that would reduce the decibel level of crowing from their rooster.

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In a letter to the board, the Rubinsteins stated that living in a “family and working class homeowners association usually afford the ability to have the presence of innate noises of daily life.”

The letter continued, “We also respect the feelings of their neighbors and their desires to have a reasonable level of animal related noises.”

The Rubinsteins filed a four-step plan that said, in part, they are working with the Cape & Islands Farm Bureau on plantings and vegetation around their chicken coop that can reduce noise, as well as the installation of plexiglass at the end of the coop’s run that faces the neighbors who have complained.

The Rubinsteins said that they will also ask the Cape Cod Commission for other ideas on noise reduction procedures. In addition, they plan to meet with members of the Bourne Conservation Commission for input on what native vegetation to plant as part of their noise reduction efforts.

The couple have also investigated ways in which to attract the attention of the birds to keep them busy and limit the rooster’s crowing.

“Various tasty food stuffs to place in their habitat, items to hang in their run to draw their attention, different toys to crawl through or on, and other distractions,” they said in their letter.

They said that they will also continue to release the birds into their open yard during times of typical neighborhood noise, such as lawn mowing, chain saws in use, dogs barking and children yelling.

James B. Knieriem, president of the Cape & Islands Farm Bureau, spoke on behalf of the Rubinsteins. Mr. Knieriem said the couple is very neat and meticulous in the care and keep of their pen, and “they are very good at their animal husbandry skills.”

He also noted that many towns have ordinances against dogs barking for extended periods of time. He suggested that a series of increasing penalties be adopted, ranging from a written notice of violation, followed by a $25 fine. With the third violation, the rooster would then have to be removed, he said.

Mr. Knieriem reminded the board that keeping and caring for the birds is a 4H project in which the Rubinsteins' sons, Merrick and Foster, are involved. Also, Ms. Rubinstein is a biology teacher who uses the chickens’ eggs as part of her lessons in embryology.

“I think we’d appreciate if you gave a little leniency, to the one rooster, not two or three,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to grant variances to the regulations governing the size of the property on which roosters can be kept, as well as the setbacks from an inhabited dwelling and property lines.

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