Ruffling feathers: Bill aims to mitigate noise at rooster farms

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Roosters perch atop their shelters at a farm on Railroad Avenue in Panaewa.

A Hawaii County Council member wants to rein in rooster farms.

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara is introducing a bill that would require anyone owning more than four roosters to keep them at least 75 feet from property lines. She said the intent is to make them less of a nuisance for neighbors after complaints she received from residents uncomfortable with all the crowing.

Some told her they have trouble sleeping because there are too many roosters next door or that they are concerned the farms will make it hard to sell their property. O’Hara said she saw upward of 100 roosters on one lot alone.

“It’s not a ban,” she said. “If you’re not getting neighbor complaints, you are probably OK.”

It wasn’t clear in a draft of the bill who would enforce the restriction or what penalties might be. But it’s already ruffling feathers.

Critics say it infringes on rural lifestyles and that people shouldn’t move to places zoned for agriculture and not expect to live near noisy animals, even activity that’s associated with illegal cockfighting.

“It’s an us versus them kind of thing,” said Ruth Mizuba, a Hawaiian Paradise Park association board member, who says she’s neutral on the bill. She said these types of conflicts are increasing as more people move to the sprawling subdivision.

While some see the farms as a nuisance, others see it as a family tradition, and one that can be lucrative, Mizuba said.

“There are fighting chickens and they make a lot of money,” she said. Still, Mizuba said not everyone raising roosters is involved in something illegal.

“For some, it’s an absolutely legal business,” she said. “For others, they’re a PTSD comfort bird. It covers the gamut.”

Keanen Miyasato, who lives in HPP, said raising roosters is his right since the area is zoned for ag and he doesn’t think that should be limited. He thinks the bill could lead to other restrictions on raising livestock if people complain.

“I love to raise chickens,” he said. “Not only chickens. We have dogs and we had goats and things like that.”

Miyasato objects to the bill stating that all rooster farms exist for the purpose of cockfighting, though he acknowledged that side of rooster raising isn’t a secret either.

“Some sell for that purpose,” he said.

Under the bill, properties in places such as HPP could be limited to four roosters since the lots are 135 feet wide and might not be large enough to accommodate the buffer zone if surrounded by neighbors.

The restriction, which doesn’t apply to hens or baby chicks, would be countywide.

O’Hara noted that many areas in her district are zoned for agriculture even if the primary use is residential, which creates these kinds of conflicts, and that this is a polarizing issue.

“I’m not blaming anybody,” she said. “I’m not going after cockfighting. What I’m trying to do with this bill is look after private property rights that are being infringed upon.”

Mizuba said she sees anywhere from five to 100 roosters on single lots in her subdivision. There are no association rules prohibiting them in the approximately 8,800-lot subdivision, which is about two-thirds built out, she said.

O’Hara said she expects the bill to be on the March 13 Planning Committee agenda.

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