Backyard chickens ruffle feathers in Islip Town

Chickens crowd the fence.

Chickens crowd the fence. (Credit: Handout / 2009)

In Islip Town, chickens are flying the coop.

Spurred by residents' complaints about wandering fowl, the town board Tuesday passed a town code amendment requiring live poultry to be kept in enclosures, rather than being allowed to roam free in backyards - from which, inevitably, they escape.

"In some neighborhoods, they're running wild," said Councilman Steven Flotteron, who sponsored the resolution. "I've seen them myself, in Brentwood and Central Islip, when I'm out campaigning."

At a public hearing before the vote Tuesday, residents of the College Woods neighborhood in Central Islip spoke of hens strutting through their yards and, yes, chickens crossing the road. One resident showed a reporter a photo of eight chicks that strayed from home in June.

"I've seen them up and down my street," said Lisa Zuhlke, who lives on Elm Street, a cul-de-sac that abuts a property with a pen that Tuesday held some four dozen hens, six roosters, four turkeys and a duck.

In front of the house on Wilson Boulevard, two hand-painted signs read: "Huevos frescos," or fresh eggs. The homeowner could not be reached Tuesday.

Central Islip civic leader Debbie Cavanagh told the board she has seen a chicken wander into the parking lot of a nonprofit group on Carleton Avenue from the adjacent house on St. John Street. No one answered the door Tuesday at the house, which has a chicken coop in the side yard.

Cavanagh asked the board to limit the number of backyard poultry a homeowner can keep.

Chickens in the streets "are creating a hazard," said town attorney Alicia O'Connor.

Zuhlke and other neighbors also begged town board members to stop the clucks and cock-a-doodle-doos emanating day and night from behind the property's stockade fence - a problem the code amendment did not address.

"You can't even keep your windows open," Beverly Rivera, 60, said in an interview Tuesday in front of her Elm Street home. "It's really not fair to people."

Islip Supervisor Philip Nolan, who advised residents to continue filing noise complaints, said the town is working on strengthening its noise ordinance, which does not directly address fowl noises. Flotteron, meanwhile, said the town would consider suggestions on further limits.

Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood) said many friends in his youth kept chickens. "I think that's a tradition that's passed," he said, noting the advantages of backyard fowl: "They lay eggs. The eggs are healthy." A full-throated male near his former home in Central Islip used to wake him every morning. "I used to hate that rooster," he said.

THE RULES

 

Other Long Island towns' regulations regarding residential chickens and chicken coops:

BABYLON No person shall keep any fowl in any building, yard or enclosure within

100 feet of the dwelling of any other person. No more than 30 fowl can be kept within 200 feet of any other residential property. Fowl must be secured within a building, yard or enclosure "in such manner as to prevent the running at large or flying out of such fowl."

BROOKHAVEN Residents can have no more than six female fowl, and no roosters. Chicken are free to roam.

HUNTINGTON Residents can keep up to eight chickens or ducks in pens, coops or houses that are not visible from surrounding residences and streets, and that must be cleaned daily. All chickens, ducks and eggs are for the sole use of the homeowner or tenant. The birds must be confined to the property. No roosters permitted.

SMITHTOWN No regulations.

HEMPSTEAD Neither chickens nor coops are allowed.

NORTH HEMPSTEAD No accessory structure used for housing chickens shall be less than 50 feet from any property line. Residents not permitted to feed or shelter pigeons.

OYSTER BAY No chickens allowed without permit.

Sources: Town officials

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