My family has owned the property I currently live on for about 15 years. In that time we’ve had some interesting neighbors, some bad neighbors, and a couple of really wonderful neighbors who have become more like friends.
And then Richard and Leslie moved in. They bought the almost two acres next door from our old friend, Armed with a Fireplace. AWF had kept the place pretty natural. He had a nice vegetable garden with fruit trees planted directly behind his house, planting redwoods and nurturing oaks in his back acre, where he thought at one time he’d like to build a new house to replace the old junker up front. But, he and his wife decided, not just Chico, but California was getting a little too weird for them, and they sold to this yuppie couple, a pair of Chico State professors.
When our realtor friend tried to introduce them to us, they wouldn’t come over to the fence, they acted as though they were embroiled in conversation. So, our dogs don’t like them, and we had to build a cedar fence to stop Biscuit from literally hounding them every time they walked behind our house. That quieted things down, until one afternoon I see Richard with his broken down rototiller throwing up clouds of dust over my fence into my laundry. They also like to mow after noon on a good 96 – 100+ day, after they’ve let their weeds get good and high and brown, throwing “fugitive dust” into my property, which is a code violation.
I’d already asked them to stop doing that, asked them to do it before 10am. I told them the dust was definitely a problem, but I also told them, there’s a guy from Tehama County in the federal pen for putting away a hot lawnmower that caused a huge fire, millions in property damage. I pointed at their fence line and reminded Richard he’d be endangering all these houses. He just stared at me for a second, then turned and walked into the house.
I thought, well, there I’ve done it, the neighbors hate me. But one day when I was hanging laundry in my string bikini, I hear Richard calling me over to the fence. Yeah, 50 year old woman in a bikini – no, I don’t feel comfortable talking to a strange man who calls over my fence when I’m half naked, call me a prude. But I walked over there and just tried to pretend I was wearing a pair of Dickie cover-alls. He was standing behind the brand new cedar fence we’d bought and installed ourselves, not offering me a dime to pay for it – instead he’s asking if he can have the old iron posts that were left from the old fence. My husband had left them because we didn’t put them there, and he didn’t feel comfortable taking them. I wanted to say, “No, and if I catch you with a finger on those posts I’ll hit you so hard they’ll stop you in Ham City for speeding!” But I didn’t, I said, “sure, that sounds great!” And when he kept yakking at me, getting more and more excited about “re-purposing,” I just stood there pretending I wasn’t uncomfortable as Hell. Luckily Biscuit noticed what was going on and came over to end the conversation.
Things went kind of smooth for a while, then one day, we see a guy bringing a full size, brand new tractor into their back yard. My husband has a tiny tractor with a rototiller attachment – that’s all we need for our incredible garden. This guy needs a full-size tractor, bigger than the one my grandfather used for his five acres of fruit and truck garden. The noise, the smell of diesel – I shouldn’t have to put up with stuff like that on my subdivision lot well into the city boundaries. But, we didn’t say anything, we just shut our windows and sat in shock while he used that thing for two weeks. It was obvious he didn’t know what he was doing, and he almost burned the damned thing up trying to pull out an old stump. Finally the man came back and took the tractor – we were relieved that it went before I just had to jump the fence and drive that sucker right through his house.
No, I don’t like these neighbors. First they snubbed me, then they started being a nuisance. Now, it’s chickens.
They brought the chickens in almost a year ago. They had them in a pen the other side of their house, so I didn’t pay attention. One day a few months later, my husband was talking to Richard, who seemed distraught – “something” had “murdered” his chickens, he was near tears, which is tough to watch in a 30-something year old man. My husband told him, we have a lot of raccoon around here – one fellow that comes into our yard almost weekly to take a big dump in the same spot near our old cedar tree – for years! We also have regular visits from skunk and opossum, likely culprits. And my husband and I have seen fox in the park many times, there’s one heck of a chicken killer there!
My husband couldn’t get over the notion that Richard was accusing our dogs! Better he accuse me, the dogs could give a shit about his stupid chickens. Him, yeah, they’d like to make steaks out of his butt, but they have absolutely no interest in his stupid chickens.
So, we quit talking to Richard. He seemed weird and hostile, always complaining, when we put up with shit from him constantly. Then one day, we notice he’s got more chickens, and they’re so close we can smell ammonia and wet hay. Then one morning we see he’s setting them up on our fence line, which is illegal. They are supposed to be 20 feet from your neighbor’s property line, and no using fences as the outside wall of the coop. I realized, he hadn’t even bothered to check the code. My husband went right to their door, told Richard about the code. Richard complained that that would be difficult, but my husband pointed out – the spot he’d had them in closer to his own house was perfectly legal. Richard was very unhappy about it, but we told him, the smell was bad, and we were worried about flies.
So, he placed the birds across the lot, illegally close to the other neighbors, and now within my sight. On a hot day I can smell ammonia coming in my windows. See, the problem is, he NEVER cleans the coop. He’s just got this little house set up with some chicken wire strung around it – I don’t even think he’s provided the legal amount of space for the number of chickens he’s got there, but whatever. I’m so sick of this guy, I’d almost like to go out and trap that fox in the park and set it loose in his fucking chicken coop.
Meanwhile, the lovely but icey Leslie has just had a baby. Great. This seems to be Richard’s cue to go on trips out of town! When Richard is gone for days at a time, she comes out in the wee hours, sometimes toting her new noisemaker, to feed the birds, but has no other contact with them. They sit shitting in that pen, and nobody ever cleans it up. They don’t even put down straw, they just fill the grain bin once a day, check the water, I assume, and throw old rotten vegetable from their oversized truck garden on the ground in the pen.
I read up on chickens. The first concern is keeping them clean, for their own good, so they don’t end up with “flystrike” – a condition where flies lay eggs in the poop stuck to chicken’s feathers and skin, and then the maggots hatch out and start eating the chicken”
When I saw this, I realized, it’s more than my discomfort here, the chickens could be suffering horrible disgusting conditions. There’s all kind of parasites that take advantage of neglected chickens who are kept in a tiny space made to live in their own excrement.
I found this great website – The Chicken Chick – a woman in Connecticut who is really serious about keeping healthy chickens. Ironically, she is being sued by the town she lives in to give up her chickens. I don’t get that, she has a huge clean place, cleans her pens daily, keeps good bedding, and even digs out the area under her coops once a year. One neighbor and a code enforcement officer are being accused of harassing this gal – so, I’m almost afraid to say anything to Richard and Leslie. I know how I’d look.
Meanwhile, they don’t even get eggs, while I can’t feed my dogs on our front porch, on the other side of our house, because the flies swarm in and attack us. It’s just been getting worse and worse as the summer has gotten drier and drier.
Now they’re getting in the front door of our apartment all the time. I just want to wring Richard’s neck. Now that his woman has a baby, he spends even less time tending to his chickens. I can only hope there’s a hard freeze this year and they all drop dead.
I don’t hate chickens, for the record, I hate people who mistreat animals and I hate bad neighbors. I really don’t believe chickens have any business in a city subdivision, but the city of Chico has actually relaxed the code for chickens, allowing almost anybody in town to have them. Scott Gruendl laughed about one of his Doe Mill neighbors keeping chickens – apparently the back gate was oftentimes left ajar, and chickens would be wandering the neighborhood. Gruendl said once when he’d gone over to see what was going on, he encountered a backyard devoid of any green living thing, “just chicken poop everywhere…”
That’s a health hazard, a code violation – allowing animal feces to cover the ground in your backyard, a backyard in which the wall of your neighbor’s house serves as one section the fence? But Scott just laughed about it and voted to allow backyard chickens on just about any size lot in town. Go figure.
Hey, if any of you know Richard and Leslie, please tell them to pick up the chicken shit in their backyard.