“Welcome to my ‘unabated’ chicken noise,” says Nancy Hager, fresh off her tractor. She approaches 40 young broilers huddled beneath a heat lamp in the barn, then slings feed to 20-some clucking hens and roosters released from a fenced enclosure.
Here on bucolic Finley Point along Flathead Lake, full of cherry orchards and towering ponderosas, the chickens seem to fit right in. But neighbor Holly Wurl disagrees, and she’s taking Hager and her partner to court. A trial is set for June 5.
Wurl’s objection? “Daily loud, unabated noise from roosters,” she alleges in the complaint submitted to Lake County. The complaint specifies that the racket begins between 4:20 and 5:40 a.m. and continues “every 2 to 5 seconds” for “up to 1 to 2 hours” before carrying on intermittently throughout the day.
Wurl declined to comment further when contacted by the Independent. “The complaint speaks for itself,” she says.
Indeed. The court filing includes Wurl’s exhaustive, three-month rooster crow log. Almost every day, from July through September 2008, she noted when and how many times Hager’s five roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed. For example, Wurl claims that on July 4 last year, the roosters crowed 38 times between 4:35 a.m. and 4:41 a.m., and 33 times between 4:47 and 4:58 a.m. And then about 100 more times throughout the day.
Hager calls the suit ridiculous. Wurl’s home is at least a couple hundred feet away from Hager’s barn, barely visible through the trees. “And there is no other neighbor around us that minds these chickens.”
Hager also points to Finley Point’s zoning regulations, which say that agricultural uses are an “integral part of the character of Finley Point,” and that such uses include poultry.
But Wurl argues in her complaint that crowing is “offensive to the senses,” constituting a “public nuisance” under Montana law, and “deprives me of my right to peaceful habitation of my residence.”
“I’m really terribly sorry, I really am,” says Hager. “I have empathy for her. But as much as it may cause her nuisance, it’s great peace to me.
“My hopes,” she continues, “are that the law will be read the right way and the chickens will stay…My motto is, ‘Keep on crowin’!’”