Goodspeed: What to do about neighbors’ animals

Not everyone enjoys having farm animals in their neighborhood.

QUESTION:Our neighbor recently started raising chickens. We live in a residential neighborhood and every once in a while some of the chickens fly the coop and get out and into our yard. Another neighbor has a cat that has gotten at least a couple of the chickens. When the cat is out, these birds go nuts, and we’ve found feathers and chicken bones in our backyard. We like animals – on a farm – not in our backyard. These chickens are really becoming a nuisance. What are our rights?

ANSWER: Not sure if it is a trend, but I have noticed that more and more people in suburbia seem to be getting and keeping farm animals. Chickens seem to be especially popular.

Whenever there is an issue among neighbors, the first and best response is to approach the neighbor directly and have a conversation. Explain the problem and your concerns. See if you can work out a solution.

If that doesn’t work, and the neighbor won’t keep better control of the chickens, visit your local government offices and find out what the policy is on agricultural animals within the city limits.

If such animals are prohibited, you can let the appropriate officials know about your neighbors and ask them to enforce the rules. If there are not rules prohibiting farm animals in your town, your only other option would be to sue. The premise is that one cannot use land in a way that interferes with a neighbor’s right to enjoy his/her own property. In other words, if the law considers the situation a nuisance, you can sue to stop.

While this kind of lawsuit is difficult to prove because determining what is a “nuisance” is subjective, neighbors have been successful in suing neighbors for this reason. A judge will try to balance your neighbor’s right to use his/her property with your right to enjoy your property. A difficult call, but it may be all that is open to you if your neighbor will not voluntarily address your concerns, and there is no ordinance on the books prohibiting such animals.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and Out of Darkness.”