Opinion Columns & Blogs

Rooster’s crow sure is ruffling some feathers

Dick Winiker and his neighbors are fit to be tied. For the last few months a rooster in their south Morro Bay neighborhood around Piney Way and Driftwood has been letting loose its (self-imagined) glorious crows morning, noon and night — sometimes twice a minute, other times every two minutes. Call it a case of a cock-a-doodle-don’t.

Now, in my quest to flesh out all things fair and fowl with regard to topics in this space, I contacted one of the world’s leading authorities on chickens, Christine Heinrichs, who happens to live in Cambria.

Christine writes books, articles and travels widely in pursuit of expanding consciousness à la chicken. Here’s what she had to say: “Chickens are descended from Junglefowl, which live in Southeast Asian jungles. Roosters crow to attract mates, to warn other roosters that they are there, to distract predators from the broody hen and chicks on the ground.

“With domestication, this has become less functional. Some roosters do crow all night. I remember talking on the phone to a friend back East, where it was after midnight. I could hear one of his roosters crowing over the phone. ‘Oh, it’s because I turned the light on and he can see it through the window.’ ”

Great. We can now add voyeur to a rooster’s list of testosterone-fueled kinks and quirks.

“There are chicken breeds known for the long and beautiful crows of the roosters, called, appropriately, Long Crowers,” Christine adds. “Denizli Long Crowers are reputed to crow as long as 25 or 30 seconds.

“The crowing rooster,” she notes, “is an important Christian symbol (as it’s been from Animism to Zoroastrianism), cited by Christ to Peter in Mark 14:30 and fulfilled in 14:72: ‘Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ ”

“We haven’t always had alarm clocks to wake us up,” Christine explains. “The rooster’s crow was an important farm sound, calling the farmer to his chores. However, it is very annoying to have a rooster who crows all night. When do they sleep? The fate of such birds is usually the stew pot.”

Author David Feldman says ornithologists believe crowing is a marking of territory, much like a dog hiking its leg only noisier and easier to clean up after.

That’s slim satisfaction for Winiker and neighbors in Morro Bay. One neighbor, in making a complaint to the city, said he and his wife had to buy a “sound machine” to block the incessant sound of crowing through the night. Winiker has recorded the crows and played them for Morro Bay City Council members (one tape caught the rooster crowing every 18 seconds for 3 minutes).

The city has received at least four complaints; the Morro Bay Police Department has been notified of the nuisance. Suffice it to say, patience is not a virtue in the world of the sleep deprived.

And here’s the deal: Any rooster older than 4 months old is pretty much banned from living within the confines of the county’s incorporated and unincorporated cities and towns — including Morro Bay.

Under the city’s Municipal Code 7.16.030, “No rooster over 4 months old shall be kept on any premises in the city, unless the premises involved is operating on a commercial basis (it’s not) or is on an agricultural zone parcel in conformance with existing zoning regulations and state statutes governing such commercial operation (it isn’t).”

What makes this code violation so odd is that you’d think the city’s police department, or at least its code enforcement officer, would step in to enforce it. Well, the city has decided to pass the cluck to County Animal Services.

So, the question arises: How many more sleepless nights must the taxpayers of this south Morro Bay neighborhood endure while the crow must go on? It’s beginning to feel like a case of fowl indifference, of municipal cock-a-doodle-don’t bother us.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or at 781-7852.