November 19, 2011

Much ado-dle-doo about noisy birds

A neighbor's complaints could prompt Raymond officials to amend a barking-dog ordinance to include all animals.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

RAYMOND - For Julie Sutherland there was no choice: If she didn't take the 25 roosters home, they would become someone's dinner.

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Julie Sutherland holds one of her 13 roosters – all she has left of the 25 she adopted in June –  inside the barn at her home on Ledge Hill Road in Raymond this week. A neighbor has complained about the crowing, so the town, like others in southern Maine, is considering a change to municipal noise ordinances that would fine owners who fail to keep their animals quiet.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Julie Sutherland's roosters have been staying inside the barn for now since a wild dog has killed about half the flock on Ledge Hill Road in Raymond.

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The time to act came in June, when she overheard a comment at a farm store in Portland where she buys grain for her horses.

"He said he wanted to make kabobs out of them," Sutherland said this week.

So, she boxed them up and took them to her farm on Ledge Hill Road in Raymond.

For her neighbor Wayne Gelston, that's when life at home became unbearable.

"I have to sleep with earplugs in," said Gelston, who lives diagonally across the street from Sutherland. "They crow all day long. They never stop."

Gelston played a recording of the roosters to the town's select board at a meeting last month. On Tuesday, the board will consider amending its barking-dog ordinance to apply to all noisy animals, which would enable the town to fine their owners for infractions.

Sutherland, however, is in no immediate danger of being penalized. For the past few weeks, she has kept the now-grown roosters in a storage room in her barn, where they can't be heard from outside.

She put the birds there to protect them from a wild dog that's been stalking the neighborhood and has already killed about half of the flock. Once the dog is caught, she said, the birds will be back in the yard.

On a recent afternoon, the 13 roosters that remain were hopping up and down two shelving units in the barn, cocking their heads and crowing. Sutherland said she can tell some apart by the pitch of their crows alone. She has names for most of them.

There are two black roosters, Boss and Boss' brother. The white ones are Snow and Snowball. Ruby and Red have feathers the color of rust, and Handsome and The Gimp are flecked with blue.

Sutherland, 50, moved to Raymond from Yarmouth last year with her boyfriend, two horses, four cats and two dogs. "We just wanted to get a little farther out," she said.

She thinks noises from farm animals should be an accepted part of rural life.

"This is country," Sutherland said.

The same sentiment was expressed at a public hearing in Cape Elizabeth on Monday. Town councilors there also are considering a proposal to fine owners of noisy farm animals.

About 10 residents spoke against the proposal at the hearing, and the council decided to continue the discussion in a workshop.

For Gelston, 59, the regulations are needed for retaining the little luxuries in life.

A salesman for a food distributor, Gelston said he just wants to sleep past 7 a.m. on his days off from work. He wants to garden and sit on his porch with his wife. Those are activities he can't enjoy when the roosters are around.

"We leave the house just to get away from it," he said.

Town staff put together two proposed ordinances for the select board to consider at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday. Neither prohibits anyone in Raymond from owning a rooster. The proposed penalties for violating the noise ordinance range from a written warning for a first offense to a maximum of $500 for multiple offenses.

If an ordinance is adopted, Gelston assures that he won't be shy about lodging complaints.

"If it gets like this again, I'll call every day," he said. "I won't give up."

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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