Stanislaus County decision bans roosters in rural residential areas

Stanislaus County residents like Connie Goesch are hoping for peace and quiet from an ordinance amendment approved by county supervisors Tuesday evening.

Supervisors voted 5-0 to outlaw roosters and other noisy creatures, such as ducks, geese and peacocks, from unincorporated residential areas near cities and towns.

Last year, Goesch suggested the county put a limit on roosters raised on residential parcels after sheriff’s deputies busted a rooster-fighting operation not far her home on Grimes Avenue, west of Modesto. About 200 roosters, most of them dead or badly injured from fights, were removed from the property by county animal control officers.

Goesch told supervisors that people fleeing the raid ran into yards and jumped fences in the neighborhood to hide from authorities. The roosters raised on other nearby properties make a lot of noise, she said.

“The roosters can start at 2 a.m. and they start feeding on each other with their crowing,” Goesch said. “It’s so noisy sometimes you can’t hear yourself think.”

Those who opposed the changes to the county’s “small livestock farming” ordinance have threatened to file a lawsuit claiming a violation of their property rights. A few speakers opposed the amendments at Tuesday’s hearing.

Michael Graham said his family bought a place in the country so they can raise animals and do what they want. “I know plenty of guys who raise roosters who are not criminals,” he said.

John Harless of Sonora, president of the California Association for the Preservation of Gamefowl, said the amendment superseded the county’s right-to-farm ordinance by giving authority to the planning director to determine which animals are a potential nuisance.

Tuesday’s hearing was more peaceful than a Planning Commission hearing Sept. 7 on the small livestock ordinance. More than 50 people, most of them opposed to the limits, attended the heated discussion in September and some continued to express their anger after the meeting.

The regulations approved Tuesday will apply to small parcels in rural residential areas and agricultural properties in “urban transition” zones near cities and county-governed communities. In those areas, the county won’t allow people to raise any “roosters, quacking ducks, geese, guinea fowl, peafowl” or any other small domestic animal determined by the county planning director to cause a nuisance. The prohibition also applies to worms raised for sale, because of the odors.

Supervisors said the county was simply clarifying a 65-year-old ordinance that, at some point, was interpreted to mean any number of roosters could be raised on rural residential parcels. County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said the interpretation made no sense when the same ordinance allowed no more than 12 chickens.

After the ban on roosters takes effect Nov. 16, property owners will have a six-month grace period before the rules are enforced. After that, owners who raise roosters or the other noisy birds near cities and towns could be cited by county code enforcement officers.

From January 2014 to June of this year, the county received almost 160 complaints about roosters, including noise and illegal breeding for cockfights.

The county is not applying any new restrictions on keeping animals for 4-H and FFA programs. Roosters and other poultry can be raised in agricultural areas outside the “urban transition” areas.