Suburban roosters in Bellevue could face new rules in the fall, as the Bellevue City Council asked the planning commission to look into the question of noisy fowl.
The issue first came to the city in September, when residents in northeast Bellevue complained about a noisy rooster that was disturbing neighbors at all hours of the day and night, according to city staff.
City attorney Lori Riordan said that city staff worked with the owner of the loud rooster on "rooster quieting" techniques, which she said were successful in getting the rooster to be quiet.
However, it was discovered that the city doesn't prohibit fowl specifically, including roosters and peacocks, Riordan said.
The council supported sending the matter to the planning commission 5-2, with Councilwoman Claudia Balducci and Councilman John Chelminiak voting against it.
"I would just suggest that you bring back options either to the planning commission or here that we look at approaches short of a ban," Balducci said before the vote. "As you pointed out, dogs bark, we haven't banned dogs. We've had lots of dog barking complaints but we somehow manage to live with each other and sleep at night.
"I'm hoping that we can find a way to allow wholesome activities within the city without imposing unduly on people's peace and quiet and ability to speak at night," she said.
"When roosters are outlawed, only outlaws will have roosters," she joked.
Deputy Mayor Jennifer Robertson, who asked the city staff to look at the issue, said that noisy roosters can affect the quality of life in the neighborhoods.
"I think backyard chickens are great," she said. "I think they are anice thing for people to have organic fresh eggs. You don't need a rooster though to get fresh organic eggs. Just the hens."
"The roosters in place right now would be legal non-conforming fowl?," Robertson asked. "They don't have to go to the butcher, they can stay."
Roosters and chickens are considered pets, if an owner has fewer than six. If an owner has more than six fowl, they are considered "small domestic animals." Both are covered under the city's land use code. Because the planning commission is taking up the issue, a change would under go an environmental review and a public hearing, according to staff.
The parks department has an urban farming program at Kelsey Creek Farm, where residents learn about raising chickens and other animal husbandry, Riordan added.
Loud fowl and other noisy pets are covered under the city codes as unlawful nuisances, according to a staff report, and King County Animal Control investigates the noise complaints.
The county has been able to settle rooster noise complaints without issuing a citation, Riordan said.
However, whether the issue will ruffle community feathers remains to be seen.
"It may or may not be a small issue. From a technical standpoint it is. From an community outreach standpoint, it could be significant," said Mike Brennan, director of the city's Development Services Department.