Amended livestock ordinance in Calhoun met with jeers

Aug. 28—Residents of Calhoun are opposing a recent city ordinance amendment regarding the restriction of livestock ownership.

The city ordinance, which governs the number of livestock and fowl that can be housed within the city limits, was amended in July to say a resident can "keep a maximum of 10 hen chickens, but no roosters, on any lot of at least 10,000 square feet."

The ordinance still states that it is "unlawful to keep, harbor or maintain any animal unless the resident maintains at least one acre of pasture for each animal unit or portion."

The animal units include any one of the following: "one horse, one mare and suckling colt, one mule, one cow, one bull, one steer, one cow and suckling calf, one heifer, one hog, one pig, two ponies, two ponies with their suckling colts, five sheep, five goats, more than 10 but less than 100 chickens, 75 ducks, 75 geese, 50 turkeys or horse that weighs 650 pounds or less."

Mayor Ron Coleman said the ordinance, which dates to 1956, never included roosters before, and the change was made due to recent noise complaints from throughout the city about crowing roosters.

"When it was written — unless you had an acre of property in the city of Calhoun — you could have zero livestock, zero fowl of any kind," Coleman said. "...I am not going to pretend and tell you that people did not have livestock. I know they did, but it was never enforced because nobody complained."

Coleman said the council wanted to revisit the ordinance after receiving the complaints.

"So many people (want) to have chickens for the eggs; they like fresh eggs," he said. "They wanted to make it to where people could have hens and no roosters. Hens are not very loud ...."

On Aug. 20, Calhoun resident Lynnette Thompson Butterworth posted a two-page letter online titled, "Are small towns, in rural communities, losing some of their small-town charm?" in regards to a recent noise complaint made to Calhoun City Council.

Born in Louisville, Butterworth moved to Livermore at around age 10. She details she was "always amazed by the community spirit and unity," specifically pointing out the relationship between neighbors.

However, Butterworth now feels differently.

"Most people were friendly and courteous ... to one another; they talked to each other. If you had some sort of grievance with your neighbor, you would personally talk to them and try to work out a solution," she writes. "But, these days, it seems like that doesn't happen. I experienced this, first-hand, recently."

At her current residence in Calhoun, Butterworth has six hens and four roosters (three juvenile) in her backyard within a privacy fence. They're typically housed in a coop with some free-range time in the yard.

Butterworth received a letter from city hall due to a noise complaint made about her roosters crowing, along with a copy of the amended ordinance.

Coleman feels that one of the factors for the complaints may be related to an individual's work schedule.

"So many people, everywhere I guess, have really weird shifts; so they're not morning people," he said. "...Neighbors (that) have a rooster (can be) unsettling."

Coleman assures that the ordinance change was not directed at anyone specifically, and Butterworth said she has heard from others who have received similar notices.

"We have people all over town that have roosters," he said. "The council said, 'Let's change it to where they get to have 10 hens.' That's going to supply quite a few eggs. I thought it was very reasonable accommodation for people who want to have hens."

One of the key issues Butterworth brings up about the ordinance is that it does not allow for roosters, which she said are important for multiple reasons, including providing protection.

"The rooster will sound an alarm when there's danger present, such as predator animals like raccoons, opossums, snakes," she said Monday. "...They also tend to do that with falling tree limbs or fire(s).

"This can not only be beneficial to the owners of the rooster, but also to the neighbors as well."

Butterworth explained other benefits of having roosters include catching food for hens, keeping peace among them and providing "entertainment, enjoyment and companionship" as outdoor pets, while also being educational.

"They can ... provide children with the opportunity to learn responsibility of feeding and caring for animals, to watch them grow and thrive and then give back to the families that raise and care for them," she said.

Butterworth believes the ordinance hampers the county's status as an agricultural community.

"...Part of the charm and unity of living in the small town of a farming community is all things agriculture," she writes. "We see many things in town and out of town that say we are an agricultural community. We still grow our own crops and produce, raise and care for our own animals."

Butterworth said she's been happy to see support from people who plan to attend the city council meeting Sept. 13 at Calhoun City Hall to speak about their concerns.

"It was nice to see that unity of people come together (for) farming and (for) agriculture," she said. "We would like to try ... to amend this ordinance that they have written up."

Butterworth said a petition is planned, with the overall goal of coming to a compromise.

"We would like to ... be able to keep at least one rooster for protection," she said. "But we would also ask to be not so limited on the number of hens that we can have on a residential property."

Coleman said he always welcomes people to come to the meeting and express their thoughts, while also being able to settle misunderstandings.

"Our meetings are open, come to the meeting," he said. "...You can make your pitch to the council if you want to and see what happens. ...We need the input."