Feathers ruffled in city council cockfight

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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The cock has crowed once too often.

A council committee meeting in Hamilton has backed clipping the wings of rooster owners by banning the male birds from the city altogether.

But poultry keepers are already crying fowl, with one questioning how it could be enforced and suggesting it might be quietly ignored.

The measure stems from council staff, who complained too much time and too many resources were taken up responding to complaints.

In the past three years, the council received 153 complaints about poultry, 84 of which were rooster related, with just over half of those specifically about noisy roosters.

A review of the city's animal-nuisance bylaw - which excludes dogs - prompted a staff suggestion rooster-keeping be made illegal without council approval.

But councillors today went a step further, endorsing a city-wide ban under a revised bylaw which, if signed off by the full council, will be released for public consultation.

The 7-6 vote came despite staff warning councillors a ban would unfairly penalise residents who had property suitable for keeping roosters.

Council spokesperson Elizabeth Hughes said the only way the council had to measure the number of roosters in Hamilton was through complaints and the council was yet to do any work on how the ban would be enforced or how much this would cost.

Other places to have banned roosters include Auckland and Nelson, while Palmerston North enforces strict conditions such as making would-be owners "decroak" their birds. New Plymouth was also considering a ban, the report said.

Mark Champion, a life member of the Waikato Poultry and Pigeon Club, admits keeping roosters when they were banned under the city's previous nuisance bylaw, which was replaced by the current bylaw in 2008.

He questioned how the council would enforce a ban, and suspected some rooster owners would keep their heads down and keep them regardless.

"I can only see it working if it's enforced vigorously, with council reacting to complaints and taking some action."

However, keeping roosters did not have to cause problems, he said.

They could be boxed at night, which delayed and muffled crowing.

Some breeds, such as Leghorns, crowed earlier than others, he said.

"I don't think people mind the crowing, they just don't want to be woken up by it," Mr Champion said.

However roosters instinctively responded to others crowing so, when there were several, or others nearby, any noise issues could be amplified.

Council staff said roosters were the biggest source of complaints under the current nuisance bylaw. They added they had been hamstrung by owners refusing to accept that their rooster's crowing was a nuisance.

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While staff could seize nuisance birds if owners ignored a court order, the council had no facilities to house roosters if they were seized and, even if it did, the council by law would have to keep the rooster for six months before it could do anything else.

Enforcement staff had to rely on the owner to eliminate the nuisance, council staff said.

- Waikato Times

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