Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

Just a Poultry Issue.

March 6, 2010

I’d like to say paltry, but it isn’t. Or, rather – wasn’t.

Like all good and responsible pet owners, I carefully checked our local and bylaws (now called subordinate laws) before getting our chickens. Being in one of the biggest amalgamated councils that came about several years ago, searching through local and subordinate laws of the Moreton Bay Regional Council took a great deal of time. It was also a rather confusing process, with several ‘old’ regions now combined but all still having existing and relevant laws.

We’d moved house to a larger plot of land, so we could keep hens. We’re on just over 1/4 acre, which meets the criteria. We have all the space needed. All good.

So just 10 days after fencing off and completing the hen house, I was surprised to receive a call at school from the Sparky.

Understandably annoyed.

It seems he arrived home from  picking up R and found a council doorknock card under our screen door.  Signed only with a Christian name, on a council letter head, the handwritten note tersely referred to our girls, saying “Chickens must be housed 18 meters from any dwelling” and a mobile phone number.

And when the Sparky telephoned this ‘gentleman’ to discuss the issue, he was also advised that unless we cleaned up our yard  we could be considered a health risk as  building materials and detritus lean on our fence.  (This would be the colourbond on-the-border fence WE erected to keep out a yappy little neighbour’s dog, and the door we removed when we replaced the front door.)

In short, it was a telephone call that was just shy of bullying, and the Sparky felt they were rather veiled threats. Where was the name of the person I had spoken to in council when I originally inquired about chickens?

The following Monday I contacted council myself. The person I originally spoke to was no longer available, I was advised. I rang the Mayor who was unavailable, and then my local councilor. He was as surprised as I was at the doorknock card, knew nought about poultry keeping and made a rather offbeat comment – “you know the Mayor has chickens…” With a promise to investigate the issue further, he rang off and I went back to work on the Internet.

I found 6  local laws for our jurisdiction, all different. I found 6 subordinate laws, all contradictory to the local laws and each other. I found  an amalgamated town plan which forbid the keeping of any caged birds or poultry including aviaries and chicken houses AT ALL, including small caged birds.  Budgies? Finches? Avairies? Are they serious?   Google and I ploughed on.   I found a current planning scheme advising a different metrerage from a fixed poultry house. I found that I could keep a donkey and a rooster but not a goat.  Or I could keep up to 20 pigs, 3 cattle or even a sheep but not a snake.

I just want my 4 laying hens, thanks.

The local councilor gets back to me with a new document. This advises me I can have the girls but must have a 30 meter radius around their house. He is as surprised as I am, but is reluctant  to take up my case. “We are a reactive Council“, he tells me. “Not a proactive. When someone complains, we take action, otherwise we like to remain ignorant“.

I have to tell you – this comment rendered me almost speechless.

But, that he mentioned a complaint got me thinking.

Later that day, we doorknocked. All our neighbours love our girls and the eggs. No one has an issue – until we get to the new people.

The people with the yappy dog.

The people on the other side of the fence that WE put up to keep their yappy dog out.

It seems their yappy dog does a lot of sniffing around in the back corner, and Mrs yappy had ‘enquired with her brother-in-law who works at the council, if chickens are actually allowed in this region?”

And her brother-in-law shares the same name as the gentleman caller with the doorknock card.   How co-incidental is that!?

After sleeping (or rather, not sleeping) on that little gem, I decided that I would go further. Armed with all my conflicting papers and acts and laws and cards, a local reporter and I fronted the local member representing State. Now State and local council rarely intervene,  but since the amalgamation, State has protective sections in place to cover grey areas while certain outdated or irrelevant subordinate and local laws are going through a repeal process.

Within 5 minutes, I had a new piece of paper – one that lets me keep my girls, but back in their coop. Free ranging. Happily. I also have the umptydoo local and subordinate laws flagged for repeal and plan to submit a very explicit plan on the ridiculousness of the laws and the content, in particular caged birds.  For now, the girls are safe.  And as the person responsible for finally helping me with this issue lives just 2 streets away, keeps chickens and is the head of the local *poultry club, I will assume they will be safe for a long time.

In the meantime, I may a get a donkey. I hope it eats yappy little dogs.

*  I know, speechless.


  1. Well, you know as well as I do that you lead such a dull, empty life that this saga was a much needed thing to fill those umpteen empty hours….

    What a pain in the neck all that must have been.

  2. Unreal!! Glad you have the mobile chook run, because that’s the one way around that particular piece of legislative lunacy. Given our Government’s bent on recycling and greener living, you should have a fab argument if you ever need it, but why do people have to be so obtuse when it comes to harmless chooks? We are all on 5 acre blocks on our street and down the end one neighbour complained about the rooster next door, and even had local council come out to get a ‘noise pollution reading’ on it. The shoe was on the other foot when the council said they couldn’t get an accurate reading because the complainants 3 dogs were making so much noise they couldn’t even hear the rooster!

    • I can’t tell you how many times I quoted words such as ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ and ‘ecology’ and ‘self sustaining’ etc.

      Loved the story about the dogs noise 😉

      Frogdancer, you know I just twiddle my thumbs waiting for the next saga 😉

  3. I am glad you got to keep your chooks. I think getting a donkey (if only for a few days) would make for great entertainment.

    I would give anything to have chickens here, but the neighborhood covenants dictate that we can’t. We could (apparently) keep as many dogs as we want, allow them to run loose in packs and make it impossible (if not dangerous) to go walking alone. But no chickens, ducks, or rabbits. They’re all so dangerous, you know?

  4. That is one mess of laws! Seems they might have enforcement issues too! You may be able to provide quite a defence if they actually try to enforce them!! Good luck! (bwaaaaack! bwaaaaack! bwaaaaack)

  5. Sorry to hear about the lunacy. The problem is that such issues usually involve so many different people within Council and with the amalgamation mess, they might not actually be able to TALK to each other. At the same time, when I was working for a small local government, one of us would take the responsibility for finding out what was going on (what bits took precedence) and be the point of contact for the poor sucker who was drowning in red tape.

    Glad you can keep the girls, and just remember that new laws rarely have retrospective power, so there would be limits on the powers that be being able to get rid of them once you have them.

    And don’t get me started on wretched yappy dogs. Our neighbours have two, and our LBD or any humans are not allowed in our backyard, are not allowed to put our garage door up, and can’t wear shoes in the house or they go off big time.

    And although I’d hestitate to ring the local council, we know the homeowner, and the tenants aren’t supposed to have any pets, let alone two yappy dogs and a bird that has the sound of our phone ring down pat. Very tempting.

  6. Move to SA – there was an article in the paper just this week about the increase of chickens as pets. The article said, and I quote, “Councils have no power to issue general controls on keeping chooks, but can issue an order to someone if their birds are deemed a nuisance.”

    What a waste of your time. Hope Mrs yappy finds someone else to complain about soon.

  7. Sounds like you were made to jump through lots of hoops, but at least you have a clear answer for now.

    I would love to have chickens, but I fear it may turn my dog yappy!!! Here you need 2 consecutive neighbours to complain about noise polluting dogs. I guess I could get him yapping without being in trouble because I only have one consecutive neighbour at the moment???

    Enjoy your eggs xxx

  8. I agree with Kay in regard to the chickens as pets thing. I read somewhere that the increase in families keeping a couple of chooks for their egg supply has grown considerably, and I would think that most councils would be taking this into consideration. I know we are allowed to have 10 chooks, 4 metres from the boundary fences, but no roosters.

    I would have thought the yappy dog would be more of a pest to the neigbourhood, there are bi-laws about that too you know!!

    Good luck, it’s always bad when things start off sour with new neighbours.

  9. Petty people with no courage. I’m glad it resolved in your favour. My hopes for them are much less charitable.

  10. Well done Possum. It seems to me that you already have a pair of donkey’s & they live next door. ( with apologies to Eeyore )

  11. Some people are so pathetic.

    I say get a donkey.

    Hell, break a subordinate law – get a goat too. It’ll definitely eat a yappy dog.

  12. What a load of rubbish you were put through, not to mention abuse of position at council for personal reasons.
    Izahadit nailed it spot on – the pair of donkeys next door need to get their heads out of their sit-upons!

  13. Well done you for sorting through all that council twaddle. How on earth can they work out if they’re Arthur or Martha with such befuddlement?
    Happy your chooks are secure now.
    Will you be joining the local poultry club?

  14. I am always amazed at the laws we have and how crazy they are! What a mess.

  15. Yeah, join the club! Keep chooks is FUN!

    I had visions of you nailing a copy of the written clearance on their yappy dog’s back and sending him home…..(me? bloodthirsty? watching too many movies?)

    I’m not so hot on the donkey idea, but maybe if you had highlighted the donkey provisions on the Yappy-notification-confirmation-by-dog and then BORROWED one for a few days…. that would have been fun to watch!

  16. Izahadit -HAHAH!!!
    Rhu – you go girlfriend! Like to know how on earth the chooks are impacting badly on this pair? Talk about learning how to win friends and influence people when you first move into an area… Sheesh!

  17. I’m not sure whether your email address has changed; I tried emailing a reply to your comment on my post but it returned undeliverable. My reply is in my “comments” below your comment on my post!

  18. Well we have NINE bantam chicks that are growing up fast. Want to add some mini eggs to your collection??
    DISCLAIMER ~ have no idea which are hens and which are roosters.
    Perhaps get the roosters for yappy dog peoples enjoyment at 6 am in the morning. Contest to see which kept animals on which side of fence is the loudest. Did I mention Bantam roosters are VERY LOUD.
    (evil laugh)

  19. Maybe you should start researching ‘yappy little dogs’ and all laws pertaining to them. We had a neighbor who had a friend in the zoning board. He liked to screw around too. Some people just like to be pains in the arse. We ignore ours. Plainly flatly ignore them, as if they are not there. That really aggravates them.

  20. I think your neighbors might be kin to our neighbors… who plowed a through path on my father-in-laws land without asking so they could access a pond. But then raised holy hell when the hired help accidentally raked some straw just across the property line. Oh and they have two yappy little yorkies. Abby calls them Yip and Yap and chases them like made when they stray into our yard.

  21. Good work. Excellent result, and it is great that your case met with actual and positive help. You have an alternative career possibility ahead of you….
    What can be done about the bird population at large going off noisily about 5 am every day? And the school gate being unlocked about the same time? And the garbage trucks?

  22. Pingback: Chicken Poultry House

  23. hee hee hee so here I am at my local govt desk laughing my well paid local govt butt off … this is soooo local govt … in the big smoke …. here in whoop whoop chickens are no worries, pigs are no worries, hell add a few horses and some calves plus like a 100 wandering dogs and … you have the picture.

    We had a calling card from an officious (?) BCC rep once at our Bris vegas house … our mango trees were ‘a health hazzard’ and could we please stop the bats eating the mangos then throwing the remaining peices down onto the grass … really, yes really … give me a break – go solve a real problem like family violence … augh !

    best to you matey le

    ps home schooling is slowing coming together … very slowly …

  24. Oh me, oh my, cock-a-doodle doo, the chicken’s done a poo!

    Well done on getting to the bottom of it and glad your gals are safe! :)

    What a palava!

  25. I think I just sprained my face with that last eye roll. Good on you for standing up for yourself and your girls!

  26. Do you think neighbours are used to throwing missiles like that as a pre-emptive strike so their yappy dog complaints can be labelled as “hostile” rather than logical.

    Great post.

  27. At least your girls give wonderful eggs. Yappy little dogs give nothing but aggravation… I know, I own two! I hasten to add, I do my best to get them stopped & indoors so they dont annoy any neighbours.

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