Noise complaints from crowing cockerels are more frequent during the spring and summer months due to the longer daylight hours. It is more likely that the law will consider a nuisance is being caused if a cockerel is crowing at unsocial hours, such as at night, early morning or late evening. The keeping of cockerels in a built-up area is likely to give rise to complaints.
If anyone is affected by noise from a cockerel at a neighbouring property it is best initially to try and resolve it informally by discussing it with the owners.
What can owners do to help?
It is always worth remembering that it is not necessary to have a cockerel for chickens to produce eggs. It is also a mistaken belief that chickens lay better when there is a cockerel around. Where possible, cockerels should be kept as far away as possible from neighbouring property.
Other cockerels in the area will try to compete with each other and this can increase crowing. Therefore, ideally only have one cockerel yourself. If a number of different cockerels are kept on the same land; this can cause increased noise problems.
Cockerels tend to crow from first light and it is early morning crowing that typically gives rise to complaints. A cockerel can be put into a hen house or coop at night. The bird therefore cannot see the dawn light and will not know when to start crowing. The coop should be kept as dark as possible. If the cockerel is let out later in the morning, rather than being free roaming, this can delay the early morning crowing.
The cockerel should not be let out until a reasonable hour. 8:00AM would be a good time to aim for in most situations. If this alone didn’t work, a high-level shelf could be put in the hen house to allow the cockerel to walk around at normal height but preventing it from stretching its neck to make the crowing sound.
When the cockerels are shut in at night, the smaller cockerels and chickens could be in a coop with a lower ceiling height than for the bigger breeds.
If you own a cockerel, you must ensure that the crowing does not cause a statutory noise nuisance. In considering whether a statutory nuisance exists, Environmental Health Officers consider a number of factors including:-
• The nature of the area – cockerels have been part of the English countryside for generations and to some extent part of country life and its charm. This is not to say that nuisance cannot be caused in the country, but an odd cockerel crowing in an isolated rural location is less likely to be considered a nuisance when compared to cockerels kept in more built-up residential environments such as towns and villages.
• Time of day –Officers will consider if a nuisance is being caused by a cockerel crowing at unsocial hours, e.g. at night, early morning or late evening.
• Duration –officers will consider nuisance is being caused if a cockerel is crowing for long periods.
If the local authority receives a complaint about noise, they are obliged by law to investigate it.
• Asking the complainant to note down times that they are being disturbed
• Asking the complainant to record the noise using the noise app
• Visiting the property in person to monitor the crowing .
If noise from a cockerel or cockerels is subsequently deemed to be causing a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, an Abatement Notice may be served upon the owners, requiring them to stop the disturbance and if not complied with, they could face being taken to Court. Fines issued by the Courts for non-compliance with an Abatement Notice can be quite substantial (up to £5,000 for domestic offences and up to £20,000 for commercial offences).
Other general issues relating to the keeping of poultry
Food and water left out for poultry may attract vermin such as rats and mice. Chicken houses may also provide shelter for rats and mice. To prevent this happening, owners should make it a part of their regular routine to clean the shelters and remove uneaten food. Food should be presented to birds in a fixed and stable container, rather than scattering it on the ground. Stocks of food should be stored in pest-proof containers until ready for use. Under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, there is a general duty to keep property free from rats and mice. In the summer, poorly kept poultry may result in unpleasant odours which can attract flies. These can become a nuisance to neighbouring households.
Owners of poultry should take practicable steps to ensure that poultry is not allowed to stray beyond the boundary of their own land.