Salt Spring Island ‘chicken war’ goes to court as rooster owner challenges noise bylaw


Warren Dingman calls them the “chicken wars” – petty disputes over poultry that crop up every year in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands as surely as a rooster’s crow.

Ground zero for 2022 is Salt Spring Island, where concerns over rooster noise have led to tickets, posts in the local newspaper and even a pro-rooster petition.

As the Settlement Officer of the Islands Trust, Dingman’s bailiwick only extends to land use. Noise complaints are a matter for the Capital Regional District. But that doesn’t mean residents aren’t complaining about him. Or that he has no sympathy for both sides of the debate.

He recently spoke with a man on another island who thought the rooster next door was so loud his owners must have hooked him up to an amplifier.

“I don’t think that’s true, but that’s what it is for him,” Dingman said.

“It’s a rural area, and on a lot of properties people will be able to farm and raise chickens. And that shocks some people.”

“One Thing That Never Seems to Die”

Salt Spring’s rooster row could come to a head next month in Victoria Provincial Court when hobby farmer Ashleigh Roslinsky plans to challenge a ticket for violating the island’s noise abatement regulations.

The battle highlights the tension between rules governing noise pollution and the zoning of rural neighborhoods that allows small acreage owners like Roslinsky — who also raises chickens, geese and ducks — to raise the creatures that fill the ubiquitous Salt Spring farms.

Roslinksy hopes to convince a judge to dismiss one of two citations she has racked up over the past year – setting a precedent to force the regional district to reconsider its approach to roosters in the future.

Ashleigh Roslinsky is a hobby farmer from Salt Spring Island who raises chickens, geese and ducks, as well as a rooster named Orion. (Submitted by Ashleigh Roslinsky)

She claims the district took decibel measurements of her rooster – Orion – and found that he is no louder than the ferry traffic that regularly passes the house of neighbors she blames for her tickets.

“It’s frustrating because it’s this thing that never seems to die,” she says.

“It’s going to keep going to court. It’s not just a waste of time at this point. But it’s a waste of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money because now I have to go to a judge. “

Poultry play on foot?

The Capital Regional District says three of the seven complaints related to roosters this year are from Salt Spring. In 2021, the island generated five of the region’s 11 complaints.

the noise pollution regulations does not refer specifically to roosters, but generally prohibits noises or sounds which tend to “disturb the tranquility, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the neighborhood”.

Orion the Rooster is the subject of noise complaints on Salt Spring Island. (Submitted by Ashleigh Roslinsky)

In an email to CBC, the district said law enforcement officers are focused on “education and collaboration as a first step.”

Mitigation measures include automatic doors that prevent the rooster from leaving the barn before 7 a.m. or changing the location of the barn to muffle the sound.

“If there are no good faith efforts made by the noise generator to mitigate the noise, we have no alternative but to consider enforcement action. [ticketing]“, says the constituency.

The regulations provide an exemption for “noise associated with legitimate farming operations” – a distinction that led to complaints to the British Columbia Agricultural Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) from three residents different against three separate Salt Spring hobby farmers, including Roslinsky.

The council oversees the Farm Practices Protection Act, which governs agricultural businesses and farms. Chairman Peter Donkers dismissed all three complaints after concluding that the subjects of the complaints did not fit into either category.

He called Roslinsky’s operation rather “a hobby or lifestyle preference” and noted that even the man who filed the complaint did not believe she was a farmer.

Salt Spring Island is a paradise for about 10,000 residents, mostly artisans, farmers, musicians and entrepreneurs. But the noise associated with the rural nature of the island may surprise people unfamiliar with roosters. (Nicole Mordant/REUTERS)

“Given that the Complainant is of the view that the Respondent is not a farmer and does not operate a farming business, it is unclear why he filed a Farm Practices Complaint in the first place,” he said. writes Donkers, underlining the words “agricultural practices”.

But then maybe the only purpose of complaining was to be rejected?

Donkers speculated that the poultry game might be on – “perhaps his motivation is to get some resolve…which might help in local government relations.”

“Visions of Elmer Fudd”

The complainant did not return CBC’s call.

According to Donkers, the plaintiff said Roslinsky did not need a rooster to sell eggs and said he does not dispute his “attempts at self-sufficiency, but asserts that he is entitled to a peaceful existence, as provided for by local government statutes.” He claimed the rooster started making noise at 4am in the summer months.

letters to gulf islands driftwood newspaper following two polemic articles written by the aptly named Emelie Peacock make it clear just how irritating a pushy cock can be.

“We are not NIMBY people, just people who hope to one day get a full night’s sleep uninterrupted at 4am,” one woman wrote.

“Visions of Elmer Fudd and a shotgun fire flashed through my sleep-deprived mind,” wrote another resident, describing the rooster next door.

A third woman cited decisions of the Agriculture Industry Review Board, calling on residents to complain to the district and “don’t feel bad about it…You have a right to peace and quiet and rest as much as your neighbor has a right to his backyard pastime.”

Roslinsky says she and Orion are ready for their day in court. She says she needs the bird to keep predators away from her hens and defines the problem as a food safety issue.

To that end, she collected over 300 signatures on a petition dedicated to “the importance of roosters to any farm, large or small.”

“Roosters create noise,” reads change.org’s call to arms.

“Just like children, cars, crows and cows.”