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It’s legal to own chickens in Seattle, but they’re bad neighbors

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

When you first hear the sound of chickens squawking at 7 a.m. on a fine Seattle morning, your initial reaction is that it can’t be a chicken because I live in the city, not on a farm. It’s probably just a tape of chickens or an old episode of Little House on the Prairie that someone’s playing too loud. But then the next day you hear it again at the same time, and realize you now have chickens as neighbors.

Chicken squawking is about as complicated as an annoying neighbor sound can get, because you can’t ask them to keep it down, call the cops, or leave a cliched passive-aggressive Seattle note. Chickens would just peck at the note or poop on it.

Here’s what appears to be the schedule for my neighbor’s chickens:

7 a.m. : Morning squawking that resembles a demon death rattle
8 a.m. : Chickens arguing with a dog next door
9 a.m. : Head chicken sacrificing the weakest member of their flock

Like many who live adjacent to chickens, I found myself looking online in a panic to see whether owning chickens is legal in Seattle, not because I’m interested in owning chickens, but because I’m interested in having them evicted. One learns while yelling, “Oh, come on!” at the computer screen that residents may keep up to eight (eight!) domestic fowl on a small lot, that any chicken housing must be located at least 10 feet away from the house next door, and that roosters are not allowed. Roosters, apparently, are the loudest, so I suppose I should be thankful.

Washington schools should reopen because my neighbors’ kids are loud

It may be legal, but owning chickens in a city when you live on a small or average-sized lot is a bush league move. It breaks the implied social contract between city neighbors, wherein you’re not supposed to hear sounds of farm animals in the city, just like people living in the country don’t expect to hear congestion honking or rave music. There’s a time and place for chickens, and tightly-packed residential neighborhoods is not one of them.

Now I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some vaguely evil thoughts with regards to these chickens, like absconding with them and dropping them off in the country where they belong. And while I’m aware that admitting this in writing would make me the number one suspect should something unfortunate happen to these chickens, the problem with any such act is that chickens are easily replaceable emotionally, and don’t have the same attachment as dogs or cats do.

So even if I were to send the chickens to Bolivia in a box (to quote the James Woods character in Casino), the family next door would probably quickly replace them, as one would goldfish or a shoelace.

Washington schools need later start times, since they keep waking me up

I’m sure there are numerous reasons why people mistakenly think it’s cool to own chickens in a city, like fresh hen eggs, some hazy sense of environmentalism, and being that hip urban guy who owns chickens. But it’s not, you’re just a bad neighbor and few within earshot of your chickens enjoys their company (maybe the cat).

Perhaps you’re thinking: How can you complain about chickens with all that’s going on in the world? Because they’re right there. If you and I were on the phone right now I’d hold the phone to the window and you’d understand.

Short of writing a whiny article like this one, there’s not much to be done. The chickens can just strut around all day while squawking with that dumb look on their face, and I can only glare at them from my apartment, also with a dumb look on my face. So if you have city neighbors with annoying chickens, I have no advice. But however you handle it, remember one thing: Never accept any of the fresh eggs from the neighbors if offered. You do that and you’ve already lost.

On Twitter @chasongordon.

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