CAPE ELIZABETH — A white Plymouth Rock rooster with a lusty set of lungs has created a neighborhood uproar that could lead to the enactment of an ordinance banning male chickens from densely populated areas in town.

The issue arose this summer when residents of Farm Hill Road and adjoining streets began to complain about Elvis, a 4½-month-old rooster who rules a small roost in the backyard of the Kennedy home at 17 Farm Hill Road. The Kennedys say they are sticking by Elvis and are not backing down.

Now the Cape Elizabeth Town Council is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the Town Hall chamber.

“This is about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Pat Kennedy said.

The controversy began early in the summer when the six chicks the Kennedys bought the week before Easter were old enough to move from an upstairs bedroom to a chicken coop outside.

The Kennedys – who include Kennedy’s wife, Crystal, and their blended family of seven children, two cats, dog Tobi, several clown fish and a turtle – had long harbored visions of a small flock of hens peacefully pecking away at ticks and other pests in their backyard.

However, all but one of the chicks turned out to be roosters, not hens. The jury is still out on Ruby. Pat Kennedy said only time will tell whether Ruby is a dominant hen (such hens have been known to crow) or actually Rubin the rooster.

The situation came to a head in July when the Kennedys returned from vacation to a knock on the door from a police officer. The officer told them the police department had received a number of complaints about the cock-a-doodle-doos emanating from their backyard. While there are no laws against keeping roosters in Cape Elizabeth, the neighbors were not happy about the crowing, which started up as early as 4 a.m.

“There were a lot of us in the neighborhood who were upset,” said Joe Gajdi, who lives next door at 15 Farm Hill Road.

Gajdi said at first he was sympathetic. He has kept chickens in his backyard in the neighborhood, where the house lots are less than a quarter of acre. Gajdi said he could easily flip a penny from his backyard into the yards of his four neighbors. Gajdi said when he wound up with his own rooster a few years ago, he managed to find it home on a farm.

“It is an understood courtesy, in a small neighborhood where our houses are 50 feet apart, if you have a rooster you find an appropriate place for it,” said Gajdi.

The Kennedys said they tried. They called a number of local farms but couldn’t find anyone willing to take a rooster. So they sadly took two of the roosters, dubbed R1 and R2, to an Agway store in Arundel that takes unwanted chickens, they said. When their other two definite roosters, Craven and Elvis, started fighting, they got rid of Craven as well.

They clipped the wings on their three remaining chickens to prevent them from flying away and tried to sound-proof the coop with insulation and caulking. On the advice of someone who lives down the street, they ordered a special collar for Elvis that supposedly prevents roosters from crowing. It hasn’t been delivered yet.

“We have not been unwilling to compromise,” said Crystal Kennedy.

Both sides said while they recognize some might find the situation humorous, the one thing they can agree on is they are not able to see anything funny about the controversy at the moment.

Not all of the neighbors are against Elvis. Jeff Lee, who lives across from the Kennedys at 20 Farm Hill Road, said Sunday he was unaware of the controversy. He said he doesn’t notice the crowing, although his wife does.

“I am not sure where I fall on this subject,” Lee said.

Several other neighbors on Sunday declined to talk.

Gajdi said he and other neighbors are tired of the noise. Gajdi said his wife counted 63 crows on a recent afternoon while reading a book. He said all of the surrounding communities have ordinances banning roosters from densely settled areas.

So the neighbors took the next step in August and sent their complaints to the Town Council, Gajdi said.

This is not the first time the council has handled rooster complaints. Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said it had a similar controversy in 2011 that fizzled out – the rooster either was moved or died – before any changes could be made to the town’s noise ordinance. Sullivan said she expects the council will vote on Monday to send the issue to the ordinance committee for review. If the committee recommends changing the ordinance, the council could vote on it in October or November, Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, the Kennedys said, keeping Elvis is more important to them than neighborhood harmony.

“Quite frankly, it is our happiness against theirs,” said Pat Kennedy.


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