SHIRLEY -- The town doesn't pay Animal Control Officer Earl Hamel a salary. Instead, his services are paid for with fines and fees related to the part-time job.
Hamel also wears a second hat. As barn and livestock inspector, he collects annual barn permit and inspection fees from about 56 registered locations in town.
Monday night Hamel brought a fee-based dilemma to the Board of Health that was all about chickens.
As ACO, Hamel's usual complaint roster centers on dogs, but recently he's been responding to a growing number of chicken calls, too, Hamel said. Chickens roaming into neighbor's yards, making a mess. Roosters crowing "all night long."
Asked how prevalent the problem is, Hamel told the board that in the past week alone, four new fowl-owners have appeared on the town map and complaints are increasing.
He recommended issuing barn permits that spell out rules and regulations, including the do's and don'ts of "free range" set-ups versus confining the birds in a pen when they are not cooped up.
The members agreed the coops are a must, since the chickens would become prey for coyotes, raccoons and domestic dogs.
The town has a leash law, but that won't stop a dog from pursuing an instinct, especially once the dog "gets a taste for chickens," member Joseph Howlett said.
As for the wild predators, the chickens are the draw, then they become a neighborhood nuisance and a risk to people and pets.
Absent a permit,
Crowing rooster complaints constitute a disturbance, a noise complaint. When the rooster is inside a coop, where it's dark, he won't crow, member Jackie Esielionis said.
But Hamel said part of the problem might be that folks who buy a few female chickens to produce fresh eggs mistakenly assume they must add a rooster to the hen house.
Not so, apparently. "You don't need a rooster for hens to lay eggs," Hamel said.
As for the problems they cause, such as rooting for grubs in someone else's yard or littering the ground with their waste, Esielionis said the board might have to consider revising its rules and regulation in an attempt to address those issues.
It was not clear, however, what the wording might be.
Chairman Donald Farrar asked Hamel to poll neighboring towns to come up with a template they could use.
Hamel agreed to do so. But he clearly felt the best solution was to issue a barn permit.
For now, though, when Hamel goes out on a chicken call, he's basically doing it for free, since there's no fee attached to the service and no applicable fine he can levy.
Hamel said barn permits cost $25 for non-hoofed livestock, $50 for hoofed animals, with additional charges for annual inspections. No question, the chickens are livestock, he said.