Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Trouble with Neighbors

I have a friend who is going through a rough time with a neighbor who objects to my friend’s backyard pets, including chickens and pygmy goats. In short, my friend lives in a lovely community that supports urban homesteading. Most of her neighbors love visiting the goats, appreciate gifts of fresh eggs and even talked her into keeping roosters because they enjoyed the crowing.

However, one neighbor, whose yard adjoins my friend’s yard, was not happy. Instead of talking directly with my friend, the neighbor went to the city with complaints. My friend immediately gave up the roosters but the city determined that all of the other pets and the pets’ accommodations (chicken coop) meet the city’s code.

My summary doesn’t begin to touch on the drama my friend has faced in her little community. But the other details are irrelevant to this blog post.

The bottom line is that my friend isn’t doing anything wrong. This community — which is located close to a major city — has laws that welcome urban homesteading. However, my friend is upset by the situation with the neighbor as well as by comments she has read on articles about the issue.

But my friend loves her animals and she has had other people point out that what she’s doing is important. One person called her “an important pioneer in urban agriculture.”

What do you guys think of the role of people who help to change the norms?

In the meantime, how do we walk the fine line? How do we be good neighbors and yet live the lives we long for? What do we do when our sustainable lives crash into our neighbors' modern suburban or urban lifestyles?

And do we ask permission — ask neighbors what they think about chickens before we bring them home — or ask forgiveness with a few fresh eggs as appeasement gifts?


Bridget said...

You can't please all of the people all of the time. If everyone else is happy and the law is on her side then at least the animals are safe. Some people have bitterness embedded in them. If you keep trying with them and all fails, be civil and nice, but keep your distance. Your friend has do do what she loves.

Terra@TheSimplePoppy said...

I totally agree with Bridget. There will always be someone who hates something/everything and nothing you do short of complete compliance will grudgingly suit them. People like your friend are super important; they're they ones showing people how it can be done and getting people interested. It's awesome. As for asking permission, absolutely not. If you are within the law, you don't need to ask the neighbors, though I think it would be a great idea to provide them with eggs or a bit of whatever you do.

Jessica said... This is what I have to say about that.

Daisy said...

It's tough to be a trailblazer. I hope she can hold on tightly to her beliefs. If the neighbor really hates it, they'll move.

Dea-chan said...

She shouldn't give up due to one nasty person. There will ALWAYS be that person. Perhaps they'll move! :-D

I'd also confirm that her other neighbors are on board, so that if Mr. Nasty tries to complain, no one even bothers to listen.

Green Bean said...

Very interesting post. We used to live on a small lot and I'll be honest, our chickens are noisy! We were legally allowed to have that number but when we were moving, I finally heard from an adjoining neighbor that they woke them up all the time. "It's not so bad during the week," she said, "but on the weekends . . . " I gave her eggs and apologized but it made me think twice about where to put the chickens in our new digs. We've put them as far from the adjoining homes as property and I would like to put in some trees to buffer the sound between them and the closest house. I also need to take some eggs over there but I'm afraid to even open that door.

Kristen said...

I feel like you will encounter a problem neighbor at some point, no matter where you live, no matter what you do. You are just more likely to encounter them sooner if you have animals outside of the 'norm'. A neighbor who goes to they city before coming to you would be a problem neighbor no matter what. Kudos to her for working with the city to make sure she was in the right, so that way she can take the high road with the neighbor, and know she has NOTHING to apologize for.

brendie said...

before anyone gets really defensive and calls me nasty i will state i think its important work too that your friend is doing...but i just want to give another perspective, as a neighbour to someone with noisey pets, albeit not "farm animals" but a puppy. it can drive you absolutely crazy with the kids screaming and the dog barking, and when they go out for the day, it whines constantly, so i can sympathise with the neighbour too. and i would be too polite to say get rid of the damn rooster and would say oh it doesnt bother me really.....sometimes politeness can hide true feelings on the subject. face to face dialogue to sort out the best compromise for everyone is my suggestion. i have been on the recieving end of "annonomous" letters posted in the box and nothing is more frustrating than not knowing who to answer to.

SustainaMom said...

Jessica — funny post! You and Brendie bring up an interesting point: I've thought about getting chickens but our lot technically isn't large enough in the eyes of the county. But I always think that chickens can't be as annoying as our neighbors' dog that barks through the night sometimes. (Or our dog, when I lock her outside so I can make a work call without worrying the doorbell will set her off.)

It is really tough to voice your opinion. However, I would NEVER go to the city until after I'd mentioned something to a neighbor. And yes, when I lived in a condo, I both asked neighbors to turn down the music and to stop smoking in rooms with walls adjoined to our unit. Both times the neighbors were very apologetic and kindly agreed. I know my friend would have worked out a solution with her neighbor. And I know that the "ugliness" of the situation bothers my friend more than anything.

But those are all questions of personalities. I'm really just wondering if people ask their neighbors before they bring home less common pets. I think I saw Crunchy Chicken is polling her neighbors before she sets up a bee colony.

Daisy and Dea-chan, my friend actually thinks the neighbor wants to move and is worried nobody will buy the house next to the chicken-and-goat-house. I'd give anything to have a neighbor with eggs I could buy so I didn't have to feed chickens on cold days :)

Stephanie G. said...

My city and my homeowners association do not allow chickens. I have two. I did, however, check with all four neighbors, (two on the sides, two in the back) to make sure they were cool with that and reassuring them that hens DO NOT crow. Bribing them with fresh eggs helps too :) Also, I've given you a blogger award. Just something for fun...stop by my space and check it out if you have time!


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