Commissioners consider ban on any male fowl known for its loud call

What is the number one livability complaint received by Washington County officials?by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Roosters' days may be numbered as Washington County leaders ponder rules to prohibit them from urban areas in unincorporated communities such as Aloha, Cedar Mill and Bethany.

Roosters. Or, to be more precise, neighbors with roosters that make too much noise.

"We're getting eight to 10 complaints a month, at least," says Tom Harry, a senior planner with the Department of Land Use and Transportation, an agency that helps enforce the Washington County Code.

According to Harry, complaints about roosters have increased steadily over the past five years.

"Before 2008, we would get a couple of complaints a month. They'd start in mid-February and taper off by the end of June. But we're still getting them now," said Harry.

Unfortunately for the aggravated neighbors, there's nothing Harry can do about the rooters. Unlike abandoned cars, there's no prohibition against roosters — noisy or not — in the county code. That's different than some cities in the county, such as Beaverton and Hillsboro, whose codes prohibit roosters within the city limits.

But the county's rules could be changing. Last week, the Washington County Board of Commissioners listened to a presentation by Harry about the growing number of rooster complaints. The commissioners reviewed a draft amendment to the county code that would prohibit roosters in the unincorporated areas of the county within the urban growth boundary. It would also prohibit peacocks "and any other male fowl known for its loud call."

A violation would be considered an ordinance infraction. Commissioners discussed subjecting violators to a $250 fine for each infraction.

An unlimited number of chickens would still be allowed in structures up to 50 square feet, which is the current policy. Both Hillsboro and Beaverton currently allow a limited number of chickens within the city limits.

The commissioners are expected to consider asking for a draft ordinance for future consideration at their Sept. 24 meeting. It could be introduced in late October, with a first public hearing possibly scheduled by early November.

Neighborhood disrupted

One Aloha resident explained how a single rooster can disrupt an entire neighborhood. He said one family started raising poultry two years ago. When their rooster got old enough to crow, it began annoying everyone in the surrounding homes.

According to the resident, on one morning alone, the rooster woke him up at 5:30 a.m. and crowed 106 times between the hours of 5:45 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Although he stopped counting to eat breakfast, the crowing continued off and on for the rest of the morning.

The situation only recently resolved itself after numerous neighbors complained to the family, eventually pressuring them to get rid of both the rooster and the chickens. The bad feelings continue today, said the Aloha resident, who asked not be be identified for fear of aggravating the family.

"It's not fair. Aloha's livability should not be any lower than Beaverton or Hillsboro," he said.

It's easy to think more people are complaining about roosters because new housing projects are pushing up against farms at the edges of the urban growth boundary. But that's not the case, explained Harry. Most of the complaints he's received concerned people living in existing neighborhoods who have started raising chickens and roosters within the past few years.

"It seems to be part of the sustainability trend. More and more people want to grow their own food and that includes chickens and roosters," said Harry.

Apparently, the satirical Portlandia TV show isn't just about Portland.

The draft amendment does not change the current policy regarding poultry outside the urban growth boundary. There, an unlimited number of chickens and roosters can be kept in structures over 50 square feet that are 30 feet from a property line and 100 feet from a neighbor's dwelling.

"Generally, when people move next to an actual farm, they know it's there and they know what to expect," Harry said.

Washington County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Bob Ray agreed. Deputies receive numerous complaints about roosters in urban unincorporated areas every year, Ray said, but there's not much they can do about them for now.

"It's difficult. In the country, you expect to hear roosters. But not in urban areas," said Ray.

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