by Hannah Eschelbach
BARRE CITY — “We have no intention of going out and becoming the duck police,” said Barre City Clerk and Treasurer Carol Dawes by telephone to The Bridge. Dawes was referring to a part of the completely revised “Animals and Fowl” section of the Barre City ordinances, which does not allow the keeping of ducks. She said, basically, that ducks are no longer welcome, but if nobody complains, then nobody will be hassled.
This comment would not have needed to be said prior to May 20. However, after six months of the only decision being to postpone making a decision, big changes have been added to the “Animals and Fowl” ordinance. Section 3-25 “Poultry,” details the new specifications for keeping chickens, turkeys and quail. First, it has to be one of those species of birds only, which means that ducks are no longer allowed. Also not allowed are roosters, the free ranging of poultry, having more than 15 birds and the unlicensed selling of eggs. The biggest needed-to-be-resolved issue was the controversy over the proposal that chicken enclosures should be 30 feet from the house and 10 feet from any property lines. Two council members, Charlie Dindo and Paul Poirier, argued that each coop should be 40 feet from the house and 30 feet from the edges of the property. The 10-30 rule was kept instead, adding that no poultry enclosure should be more than 45 square feet. The rest of the new specifications can be found online at barrecity.org in chapter three of the ordinances.
According to an article in the Times Argus by David Delcore, Dindo and Poirier were concerned about the effect of poultry keeping on property values and the quality of life. From what I’ve seen — err, smelled — the quality of life might go down simply because the animals stink. There’s also Section 3-20 of the ordinance, “Nuisance Animals,” which defines a nuisance animal as any pet that damages people, property or disturbs the peace, for example, because of constant whining or howling. This rule makes it easy to see why roosters wouldn’t be permitted, although there is some confusion about why ducks are no longer allowed. They’re quieter than chickens, I’ve found, and you only need one duck egg to make an omelet. Maybe it’s this confusion that has prompted someone living near me to keep her ducks, even though the new ordinance eliminated a grandfather clause allowing ducks.
Despite such confusion, the revisions to the ordinance seemed to make good progress toward contributing to the quality of life in Barre City — that is, making sure the neighbors of chicken owners don’t go insane from the noise or mess. And it must be a relief to end the half-a-year-long poultry discussions in the city council. Personally, I would love to talk about chickens each night for six months, but that’s probably just me.