Hoquiam considers chicken crackdown

HOQUIAM – With the excited flap of ruffling feathers around his feet, Anthony Crumpler tipped the bucket of feed to the hungry beaks.

Dozens of chickens gathered beneath him, quietly clucking and pecking the earth along Queen Avenue in northern Hoquiam. A few roosters strutted between the hens, crowing strong and sharp.

A smile on his face, Crumpler moved to his backyard and emptied another bucket for another couple dozen chickens on a recent morning. The birds brown, white, red-faced and black-beaked flocked to greet him, snatching feed and small bugs from the ground.

“The chickens are not creating that big of a problem in this town,” he said, frustration edging into his smile. “They act like we’ve got chickens menacing all over town, chasing people around, like they’re being attacked by giant chickens.”

The nearby birds clucked and fluttered, heads bobbing as they wandered in circles.

“They’re not menacing,” he said.

The City Council has proposed a new ordinance limiting domestic fowl of any kind to four hens within the city limits and adding a $20 annual licensing fee per home. No roosters would be allowed and all other pet requirements would still apply.

The council’s Public Safety Committee recommended the new ordinance earlier this summer, citing complaints about public nuisance and health concerns.

Chairman Paul McMillan said neighbors should not have to smell chickens next door or wake up at 3 a.m. to the shrill crow of the rooster down the street. Other members pointed to city regulations already limiting the number of dogs or cats allowed in a household.

Chicken owners say the birds offer organic eggs, low-impact pest control and some companionship.

According to the Hoquiam Police Department, as many as nine households raise chickens within the city limits.

Sixth Street resident Ian Bommerscheim said he grew up with chickens at his home. He now keeps four hens after recently losing two birds.

“We always had a couple chickens in the yard,” he said. “They’re fun … and you get eggs.”

Bommerscheim said his family enjoys having them around. His neighbors have never seemed to mind, in fact, many have “orders” in for eggs when the family has extra.

The council will vote on the ordinance its meeting today.

Walking along the wire fence of his yard, Crumpler said his family also has a long history of raising chickens. Before moving to Hoquiam a few years ago, the 55-year-old raised hundreds of chickens in Northern California. He brought his history to the Harbor and now raises about 80 chickens on his corner lot, far more than any other home in town.

“There’s nothing wrong with the chicken rules they have right now,” he said.

As he points out custom-designed chicken coops and automatic water dispensers, Crumpler said he has spent a great deal of time and money to manage his chickens responsibly.

He said he worked with the previous animal control officer to make sure he met all of the pet enclosure requirements and he uses a number of techniques to control odor. He plans to get rid of most of his roosters to cut back on the noise.

“As you can see, everything is neat and tidy,” he said. “This is the ideal way to do an urban chicken yard.”

But he feels like he’s now being singled out by the proposed limit of four hens, which would force him to sell off his flock.

Councilman McMillan said the committee recommend allowing just four hens after comparing the regulations in other cities. Most regional cities, he said, either allow four birds or ban them all together.

Crumpler said he can take new steps to manage or reduce his number of chickens. He can meet with any other owners to make sure their chickens do not bother others.

But he doesn’t want to lose all his chickens a big part of his family history and his way of life.

With the smile, Crumpler named off the different species he had roaming the yard.

The birds pecked near his feet. He turned away from them and his smile faded.

“Why not leave a man and his chickens alone?” he asked.