Hillsboro Police Code Enforcement Officer Kelly McBroom has a few words for all you urban poultry farmers: Chickens, yes. Roosters, no.

The Hillsboro City Council legalized owning chickens within the city limits a few years ago, but the council drew the line with roosters. And it’s Mc-Broom’s job to tell violators the difference.

“It used to be against the municipal code to have any poultry in the city limits. But with the increasing popularity for urban farming, the council decided to allow chickens but not roosters,” explained Mc-Broom, who is assigned to enforce livability issues in the city code, such as the prohibition against visible garbage and graffiti.

One northeast Hillsboro family got the word from Mc-Broom last week. Joel, who declined to give his last name, thought roosters were legal until McBroom stopped by. Now he’s been notified that he can keep only chickens in the coop at his duplex in the 200 block of Northeast 12th Avenue — and even that will need to be inspected.

Joel said he was surprised to learn the police were tipped off by an anonymous TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A neighbor's complaint about this rooster brought Hillsboro police to a Northeast residence. Its days are numbered because the city only allows people to keep chickens.

“Nobody’s complained to me about the rooster,” Joel said. “Someone complained when one of the chickens got out about five months ago, but that hasn’t happened since then.”

Like other urban poultry farmers, Joel said he got his chickens about two years ago as a way to save money on eggs.

“I’m not planning on eating the chickens. I couldn’t kill them,” Joel said.

Chapter 6.20.070 of the Hillsboro Municipal Code sets out the conditions under which chickens can be kept. Conditions include requiring at least 7,000 square feet of space for up to three chickens. McBroom said he and the other three compliance officers try to be lenient as long the chickens aren’t running free or creating health problems, however.

McBroom pointed out that such misunderstandings are easily avoided. The code requires anyone wanting to own chickens to obtain a permit from the Hillsboro Planning Department. It is free, and comes with a set of rules covering the “do’s and don’t’s” of keeping chickens in town.

In addition to roosters, the code prohibits peacocks, peahens, geese, turkeys and male poultry in general. The code also allows miniature livestock, except for un-castrated males.

But roosters are among the least of McBroom’s problems. The bureau has received only a handful of complaints about roosters so far this year. Instead, the most common complaint — by far — is the prohibition against barking dogs. The department receives at least two complaints a day about barking.

“The code is very specific about barking dogs,” Mc-Broom explained. “Dogs cannot bark more than 10 minutes continuously or 30 minutes intermittently. But an officer has to hear and document the barking before we can act.”

According to McBroom, the next most common complaint is overgrown grass or weeds, at least in the summer.

According to Hillsboro Police Department spokesman Lt. Mike Rouches, livability complaints are the most common one received by the police.

“Few people live next to a criminal operation. But many people are bothered by neighbors who have garbage or overgrown grass in the yards. Those are the kinds of things we hear about most often, actually,” said Rouches.

Responding to livability complaints may not sound like real police work to many people, yet McBroom said the complaint about Joel’s rooster involved repeated visits to the neighborhood because the anonymous complaint got the address wrong.

“We walked all over the neighborhood and didn’t see or hear any roosters the first time,” said McBroom.

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