Many municipalities around the United States require you to obtain written permission to keep chickens from those mostly likely impacted: your next-door neighbors. Even if not mandated where you live, letting your neighbors know you plan on keeping a backyard flock is a gesture of courtesy.
After all, your venture not only affects you but them as well.
Suddenly, a coop will disrupt their view of the neighborhood. Clucking and squawking will disrupt the peace. And, come molting season, feathers will fly all about. You, the poultry-keeper, must address your neighbors’ concerns. You must also skillfully adjust their views about chickens so they align with your own.
Check out these four tips for cultivating chicken-friendly neighbors.
Bear in mind that, for many people, chickens live in out in the country, not in suburban yards. Your neighbors may (rightly) worry about how your chicken-keeping will affect them.
They may be alarmed that your flock will attract rats, raccoons and other wild animals to the neighborhood. Maybe they possess concerns that your flock’s poo will produce an intolerable smell. They may even wonder if their property values will plummet because of your birds.
Take as much time as necessary to calm your neighbors’ fears. Assure them that you will follow a strict schedule to ensure your coop and yard remain clean and odor free and that you will follow your town’s ordinances regarding the disposal of chicken manure.
Relay that you will store your chicken feed in lidded containers inside your garage or garden shed, away from where vermin can ransack it. Clarify that you will keep hens, which make soft clucking sounds, versus roosters that crow all day long. Most importantly, convey to them that, as a home owner, you do not want to live in a stinky, messy, vermin-ridden yard, so you will take as many measures as necessary to keep everything clean and quiet.
A peace offering of fresh eggs once your girls start laying tends to sweeten most sour attitudes.
Once your neighbors start getting accustomed to the idea of living next door to chickens, you should next introduce them to your birds. By no means do you need to host a formal “stop by at 4 PM Thursday” kind of arrangement. Keep this as casual and informal as possible.
When you head out to gather eggs and notice your neighbor working in her flower bed, invite her over to help you collect them. If both your neighbor and you are out mowing and you stop to chat, invite him over to take a look at your setup. He may be quite curious to see what’s inside that shed-like structure in your backyard.
If the kids next door are outside playing, ask if they’d like to help “feed” the girls, then have them toss small handfuls of scratch to your flock. I almost guarantee the kids will run home and tell their parents. And if the children get excited about your chickens, chances are the parents will become intrigued as well.
It’s unnecessary to inform your neighbors about Henrietta’s latest antics every single time you see them outside. If you only ever talk chicken, you may find your those poor souls doing an about face back into their houses every time they see you.
The key to communicating? Balance. Bring up your birds just enough to convey their importance to you without droning on about them endlessly. Refrain from specifics. Avoid sharing anecdotes such as “Buffy gobbled up every single kitchen scrap in my bucket before the other girls could get any and, boy, was her crop swollen from all of that!”
Instead, tell an informative tidbit such as, “I trimmed three pounds of green beans from our vegetable garden for tonight’s dinner. So glad those ends won’t go to waste, since chickens love eating kitchen scraps!” By gently providing your neighbors with poultry facts, you’ll pique their interest in chickens … and in your flock.
Most people enjoy free eggs, but they don’t begin to make amends when one of your hens dig up the entire plot of pansies your neighbor spent all of last Sunday planting. Same for when your flock gets into your neighbor’s prized cherry-tomato patch and gobbles up every single ripe tomato.
Prepare to pay your neighbor not only for the damage inflicted by your birds but also for the time and effort they put into whatever your chickens damaged or destroyed.
As a responsible chicken owner. you must accept your ultimate accountability for your birds’ conduct. Not only will this help keep the peace between you and your neighbors but will also alert you to issues in your chicken-keeping that need improvement in order to keep everybody—including you—happy.