Neighbor Woes


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jul 27, 2009
San Francisco
Setting the scene:

I live in SF with a small flock of 5 chickens and 2 ducks in a gorgeous little garden with fruit trees and a duck pond and plenty of space for the girls to scratch around. My NEIGHBORS, however, are another story. They have about 12 bantam chickens (3 of which are roosters) which I assume are meat birds, as occasionally one of them goes notably missing right before a holiday. In some ways, I think their having so many birds is good - their roosters crow all the time and none of the other neighbors have called in a complaint, meaning our over-the-4-bird-ordinance-limit family is in no danger of being disturbed by the authorities. That said, the neighbors also have 4 terrible yappy chihuahua dogs that fight all the time and bark at 4am and are generally horrible.

A while back their chickens started hopping the fence (they were allowed to range the yard) and getting into our garden (probably to escape the terrible dogs), and we'd just knock them back off the fence into their yard, or scoop them up and toss them back over. Finally, after we got tired of being the chicken-police, I picked one up out of the tomato patch and carried it to the neighbor's front door to show them how to wing-clip. They seemed OK with that, and I explained that I just didn't want them in my yard anymore (I'll admit that part of me was justifiably concerned they'd fly into the wrong yard and get us all busted for having too many chickens).

Instead of clipping their wings, the neighbors put all 12 birds into a little garden shed and blocked the door with some old chicken wire and a bunch of paving stones, leaving the birds in a too-small, mostly-dark environment. It wasn't my business (though it made me sad for the chickens), so I let it be.

Now, the little yappy dogs have figured out how to break into the shed, and occasionally drag a chicken out to play with and eventually kill and tear apart. I'll wake up to the horrible sound of a tiny chicken screaming for its life, dogs growling, and my girls clucking in alarm over the commotion. The first couple of times I didn't say anything, hoping the neighbors would get the hint and deal with their animals. Last time, I mentioned it, and the neighbor explained that he just "didn't feed the dogs enough that day".

This morning it happened again. I actually went outside, hopped the fence, and rescued the little chicken from the stupid dogs (who were playing tug-o-war with its wings and having a grand time of it), and put it back in its shed (which incidentally has a bunch of gardening tools and a punching bag hanging inside it - not much of a coop). Also, I noticed the chicken has a terrible case of Scaly Leg.

I've left a note for the neighbors informing them that I was in their backyard and that they need to check on their bird to make sure he's OK...but I don't know what the next step is. I can't take hearing the death-screams of their chickens anymore, but am afraid of confronting them and having it become a terrible argument over chicken politics, or worse, having the authorities called in and possibly having to lose some of MY girls.

What should I do? How do I deal with someone whose standards of care are (to me) inexcusable? How can I teach them to be respectful guardians of their animals? We have discussed telling their 16 year old son that we will teach him how to build a safe coop with a lockable door - it's possible that he might be into something like that (he loves our garden and our ducks).

Any ideas? Comiseration? Similar stories/solutions?




10 Years
Nov 21, 2009
Fort Worth
first... i would love to reach out to this neighbor of yours
this way!

ARGH. I think I would try and approach the kid like you said and tell show him the right way but with his dad being so heartless Im not sure it will work.

If that doesn't work I would go ahead and call the animal control on them. ASAP That is just too sad. Im sure there are more neighbors who are concerned. Maybe he will assume someone else called. who knows.

The animal control officer should do his/her job. As far as yours I would keep a few inside for a little while. If the neighbor complains about you having extras just remain silent. When/if the officer wants to look in your yard let em. If they don't see them they aren't there.


10 Years
Mar 16, 2009
Oakland, CA
what a tough situation. First thought is, is there a cultural difference between you and the neighbor? If so, do you have any friends or other neighbors that culturally identify with your the troublesome neighbor that could help you talk to them? Sometimes cultural / racial differences can give people a more closed mind in possible disputes when compared to times when the problem is between people of the same race / culture.

Regardless of race / culture, can you get other neighbors to express concerns to the troublesome neighbor.

Other thoughts:

since animal cruelty does not appear to be a concern to your neighbor, I would focus on the disturbance it causes to you:

-the noise of the chicken as it got torn apart was really loud and it was mentally disturbing to you
-the scaly leg mites could be transmitted to your chickens and you are concerned about your own flock

I would make another attempt to resolve this in a friendly way even though they deserve a throttling; it is a major bummer to have bad feelings between neighbors. But, if it doesn't get resolved after this try, I would warn them that you feel you have no choice but to go to animal control, and then follow through with it if it happens again.


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jul 27, 2009
San Francisco
It is quite an astute observation that there are some cultural differences at play in our backyard management - good call.

The neighbor used to have a farm in Mexico before he moved here and I'm certain he had TONS of space in which to free range his chickens/dogs without this problem (and probably no ordinances about animal maintenance). I am also certain that his chickens did not then (nor do they now) have names and get cuddled regularly. His flock is for food, and not "pets" - for him the dogs getting into the coop was likely more along the lines of them getting into the pantry and eating the stored salami/cheese/cereal than it was the killing of a family pet.

It still makes me terribly uncomfortable to have to witness it.

I'm not on good enough terms with any of the other neighbors to discuss this with them (I don't think I've ever even SEEN the neighbors on the other side of the offending yard). There are some language barriers there, too - I'm half Puerto Rican and I speak Spanish (and in fact explained the wing clipping IN Spanish to the wife), but do not speak Cantonese or Mandarin which are the dominant languages in this area.

It's a tough situation, and I really do want to handle it respectfully. I recognize that for many folks, chickens are not the adorable bring-them-inside pets that they are to me, and I *do* eat meat - just not our own birds. What's really important to me is the quality of life that these animals are entitled to (and of course, the biological safety of MY flock in regards to illness and disease). I'd really like to accomplish some sort of armistice without bringing in "the authorities", and ideally would like this to be a learning experience for us AND the neighbors. I'm certain this farmer has a lot he can teach ME about backyard gardening too!

I'm hopeful, just nervous. And uncertain about how to broach the subject with them. I'm thinking the son (who is very nice and always offers to help me carry in the groceries, etc) is the best way to handle it. He might even be really excited about building a new coop for them, who knows?


Flock Mistress
Premium Feather Member
15 Years
Sep 6, 2007
Corydon, Indiana
Dogs tearing up a chicken is animal cruelty. There are laws for that. Keeping chickens in a coop is not illegal, but sad. I would call animal control about the cruelty. My way of dealing with how the chickens are kept is asking myself "are the conditions better than dead?"


10 Years
Dec 5, 2009
It is easier to change our own behavior than the behavior of others. You have lots of options, choose one:

1) Move

2) Call animal control

3) Stop being so involved in their business

There are other options but I just named 3 very reasonable, legal solutions.

rancher hicks

Free Ranging
13 Years
Feb 28, 2009
Syracuse, NY
Well this is what I would do. I would talk to the neighbors again let them know.

1. I understand that you are really busy and you would like to keep chickens cuz the eggs are so good. Why don't we make a deal. You let me have your chickens and I'll give you a dozen eggs a week..

Or you could say, 2. I understand that your really busy and have a hard time finding the time to properly care for your chickens. Why don't we make a deal, you get rid of your chickens and I'll give you a dozen eggs every week.

Now for those who are going to themselves that's crazy! I'm not suggesting that you do this for the irresponsible owners. I'm suggesting you do this for the poor chickens.

Or 3. What you could do is "temporarily" get rid of your chickens, blow him in to the authorities, and after he is forced to give up his birds, wait awhile and then got your birds back.

Unless of course that you are both illegal. If you are, your are just as guilty as a shoplifter. Both are breaking the law, no matter how you look at it. And I'm not saying you are.

Getting into a snit w/ your neighbors won't help either of you or the birds.
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In the Brooder
10 Years
Jul 27, 2009
San Francisco
a) Their chickens are diseased, I would not want them in my yard.

b) They're not too busy; they just have different standards of care than I do.

c) I'd rather not give my neighbors ultimatums - seems like that could be the beginning of an escalating neighbor-war, which is NO FUN.

I really hope we can find a mutually-beneficial way to resolve this.


12 Years
Jan 14, 2008
3) Stop being so involved in their business

This sounds like the best advice to me.​


11 Years
May 28, 2008
Upstate NY
My guess is there is not going to be an easy way to change your neighbors ideas on animal "rights". That being said you do need to protect your flock. I say build a taller fence- one that their chickens can't get over. Good luck!

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