Not in your backyard

Published date28 August 2021
Publication titleMix, The
Roosters. Regal creatures heralding the new day with melodious crowing. Or, sleep-shattering fleabags best enjoyed with lashings of gravy?

The Dunedin City Council (DCC) is reviewing its bylaws on keeping animals. The review is five years ahead of schedule, pushed to the front of the queue by dozens of complaints about noisy cockerels in urban backyards and on rural properties bordering suburbia.

At present, the Keeping Animals (Excluding Dogs) And Birds Bylaw, although it does include nuisance, health and safety provisions, neither has restrictions on what non-canine, furry or feathered creatures people can have as pets, nor on the numbers they can keep. Want to have seven cats? Be my guest, the city says. Partial to the notion of a dozen pet llamas? Go for your life. Like the idea of waking to a 20-piece rooster reveille? Hang on a moment!

We live in times that make us acutely aware of our own little slice of paradise. Our piece of Earth delineated by wooden fence, brick wall or leafy hedge is an increasingly precious, private sanctuary.

Minds turn to making the most of that space. It is no longer simply a backyard. It is a kingdom, waiting to be moulded according to our will and our desire for the provision of pleasure and gain.

But backyards butt up against other backyards. And so we have laws and bylaws, to manage the impacts of neighbouring kingdoms on each other.

Sometimes, however, those regulations are curious, counter-intuitive or buried deep in government websites and bureaucratic jargon.

So, here is a wholly incomplete miscellany of some of the things you can do, some that you had better not, and some that you might just get away with, in your own backyard.

The future of suburban roosters in Dunedin hangs in the balance. The council wants to know whether residents are happy with the unregulated status quo, think a permit should be required or want them banned outright. In the meantime, if roosters are your thing, fill your yard with their strutting majesties. Do remember, however, that the existing bylaw stipulates your animals cannot be a nuisance to neighbours. Consider fitting your male poultry with a rooster collar. Fitted snug, but not too tight, the collar limits airflow to a rooster’s voice box, reducing the volume of his crows.

The whole topic of keeping birds is somewhat sketchy in the city’s bylaws.

The number and type of birds is not limited, but there are requirements around housing — with some interesting exemptions. Every bird house and run shall be in good repair, clean and free of vermin, the bylaw states. But that does not apply in four situations, including, if the birds are at ‘‘a bird show or contest for no more than four days’’. So, if birds make you happy, you could always buy seven swans, six geese, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge. Put them in your pear tree. If anyone objects, say it...

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