Cotati leaders look to reduce chicken flock amid noise complaints
Why did the chicken cross the road?
In Cotati on Tuesday afternoon, the answer seemed obvious for the white-feathered rooster who left the Walgreens parking lot on Old Redwood highway after a fruitless attempt to peck for food.
Seemingly unsatisfied, he moved to the grassy vacant lot behind the Chevron gas station across the street, searching for bugs or perhaps a worm.
The rooster is one of dozens of feral chickens that roam that part of town, where the flock has been a community fixture for several decades, earning the adoration of neighbors and visitors.
“They’re a part of Cotati,” said Denise Bligh, who lives about a block away from the chickens’ stomping grounds. “They make us happy. They’re so funny. If you sit and watch them for a while, they’re little clowns.”
But the number of chickens — particularly roosters — has been growing, bringing an increase of noise complaints and instances of the birds being hit by cars near the busy intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Highway 116.
The city has begun capturing some of the feral fowl with the intent of finding them new homes and reducing the size of the flock to closer to its traditional size, about half of what it was at the end of March. Some neighbors, though, want the birds left alone.
“They’ve always taken care of themselves,” Bligh said. “When the flock gets too big, they break out and they find other colonies.”
By the city’s count, the flock has grown to 40-plus members in recent weeks, about double its normal size, Cotati City Manager Damien O'Bid said.
Most of the group’s new members appear to be roosters, and O’Bid said the city has heard concerns over the potential dumping of unwanted birds in the area, increasing the crowing at sunrise and sunset each day.
“Because of the complaints and because it’s not really healthy to have that many birds and roosters in that area … we started working with some animal shelters and organized some of the re-homing of the roosters to reduce the flock to a more healthy size,” O’Bid said.
Bligh, however, was concerned over the future of the chickens that would be relocated and was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to give input on the matter, she said.
She’s enjoyed watching the birds over the past few decades as she drives to and from her house, and the roosters’ crows in the morning and as the sun sets don’t bother her, Bligh said.
Some have coupled up and should remain together, she added.
On Saturday, five of the chickens — four of them roosters — roamed the lot north of the Walgreens. They strutted, hunted, pecked and scared away a nearby pair of ducks.
Later that night, they would be expected in the nearby front yard of John Schoeller, who's used to the line of droppings on top of his front gate from the pair of chickens that often perch on his pergola. He’s had to install spikes along part of his fence to ward off the birds, though he says they don’t tend to venture further than his own house.
Despite those unwanted leavings and the early morning crowing, Schoeller said the neighborhood fowl mostly didn’t trouble him.
"I don’t mind the chickens,“ he said, but then he gestured to the collection of droppings. ”I do mind this.“
The first phase of the relocation efforts began March 31, a three-day endeavor that was spearheaded by the North Bay Animal Services nonprofit at the behest of the city’s leaders, nonprofit Executive Director Mark Scott said.
The group was able to corral and capture about 12 birds over the three-day period, Scott said.
The organization will return to the flock to start relocating another portion of the group once the first dozen chickens it captured are adopted out of its shelter, O'Bid said.
“Like everyone in Cotati, we love the chickens out there and we didn’t want to see anything bad happen to them,” O’Bid said.
Staff Writer Will Schmitt contributed reporting. You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.