Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Lesson 1124 – Smelly Chicken Coop – What a Neighbor Can Do.

By Wendythomas @wendyenthomas
IMG_20140921_132130727 I recently got this email from a reader who is having problems with his close neighbor’s smelly chicken coop. Read the letter, my reply, and if you have any suggestions, please let us know. Problems with backyard poultry smell

I’m hoping you can help me with a desperate quandary I have regarding my neighbors.  They have a coop and it is SO smelly.  The backyards are not big and they do have it as far away as they can, maybe 50 yards away from my backyard (maybe less), but the smell is so atrocious that I can’t use my backyard, screened in porch or even open the windows in the back of the house because it smells so bad.  I spent the evening yesterday cooking in the kitchen with the only window in the kitchen shut because I couldn’t take the smell anymore.  It was barely perceptible last year but this year it seems to be omnipresent especially in the afternoons and evenings.  It is especially rough lacking any central a/c as we need to be able to open our windows.

I really don’t care if they have chickens or not.  I don’t hear them and they don’t seem to have a lot.  I get it might make sense for them and times are rough all over but I’m feeling like I’m under assault in my own home.  Any advice would be so welcome, Thanks! Responsible chicken care Chicken noise and smell is a HUGE thing in residential flocks and if complained about enough, it could cause a ban on chickens for those who have close neighbors. While I believe that we have a right to have chickens, I also believe that we have an obligation to respect our neighbors’ peace and property. We have 27 chickens and our coop does not smell, in fact, we have dinner in our backyard every night, the coop in question must have a lot of moisture in it. Here’s my reply.

First, where are you located? Asking this to know if zoning allows for chickens.

That’s a very tough situation. I believe that everyone has the right to have chickens but that everyone also has the right to peace and quiet (which includes smell-free) in their back yard. I believe that reasonable peace in your house and yard trumps your neighbors having chickens.

In our town, we recently had a resident approach the town council about a rooster ban. His neighbor has two roosters that crow night and day. He can no longer use his backyard – that’s a problem. Our town is zoned agricultural and so we can’t have a ban on roosters. That’s not going to help this guy.

I spoke in favor of including roosters in a noise ordinance – roosters are a big problem in residential flocks. If you have the land, then go for roosters, if you have close neighbors, then no – you shouldn’t be allowed to have

roosters. End of story.

If the smell is that bad (recognizing that at some times the smell will be worse than others, particularly when there is the spring muck out), then the first thing to do is talk to your neighbors. I know, I know, no one likes confrontation but brush up on your best negotiation skills.

Approach them by first saying you don’t mind that they have chickens but that the smell is affecting your use of your yard and that it is starting to be a problem. Don’t threaten, don’t say that you’ll call the police, offer to give them time to come up with a solution (1-2 weeks is fair.) If they are sensible, they will try to do something. If they are not sensible they will ignore you (and give us chicken owners a bad name.) At that point you can contact the city or town health department  to  do a site visit in order to determine if there are any health code violations. (which, if there is a strong smell, I’m willing to bet that there may be.) If the health department gets involved, prepare to lose the good graces of your neighbors, but from the sound of it, that may not be such a big loss. Good luck and let me know what happens. I’ll put this question and answer on my blog to see if anyone else has some suggestions. So how about it gang, any words of advice? How do you curtail the smell?


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at [email protected]

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