Saturday, April 11, 2009

close encounters with the fowl

In early February I ended my planned 12+ month corporate hiatus a few months early after landing a technical project manager job in the Enterprise Architecture group of, thanks to a referral from Andy. Three weeks later Jascha and I started moving into a rental house in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Initially it seemed like a great find - dark hardwood floors, two bedrooms (one for gear storage) with a spacious living area, plus a kitchen with a ton of counter space, garden space, on a dead-end road, and most importantly, biking distance to work. This would be my first permanent dwelling since placing most of my belongings in storage and leaving for Bishop last April.

Then came the dark clouds. To our horror we started hearing crowing coming from what seemed like our backyard starting around 6a. I was unable to go back to sleep once they started, and to top it off I started having problems going to sleep at night. Great, this is exactly what I needed for my new job. Let me state for the record that although their brains are the size of peas, I don't mind chickens. In fact, I kind of like them. Any visit to the Tri-County Fair merits a requisite stop at the chicken pens. I even recently owned a book on chicken breeds. This, however, is a far cry from living next door to roosters.

I went online and learned that L.A. does not have a law banning roosters, only one that states they must be maintained at least 100 feet from a neighboring dwelling. Walking to
the back of our yard it was clear the roosters were no more than 35 feet from our bedroom. I also read that people's complaints to Animal Control often go unanswered, so I had no expectations of a resolution. Upon emailing my landlord she told me that she was aware that there were roosters before we moved in, but she "did not think they were a problem". I was furious because had we known about the roosters we would not have moved in, but to give her credit she was willing to help.

We both started calling Animal Control on 2 March. The initial complaints trigger a letter to the address with a 15 day warning to remove the animals. I followed up periodically (each time having to call back repeatedly to get through and/or waiting on hold for up to ten minutes) and around day 10 they agreed to send out an officer the next day to issue a verbal warning.
The start of daylight savings time and the lengthening days only exacerbated the issue. The first crows would start sometimes as early as 3:40a. Two days later I called back. They initially claimed the officer had gone to the address and had removed the roosters. I said that was interesting because I heard them the day after they were supposedly removed. Next they told me we had provided the wrong address and no roosters were present, and if they send someone out again and don't find any roosters we had no recourse. A fine example of your tax dollars hard at work.

Thoroughly annoyed I rode my bike home from work, grabbed my camera, climbed through the back fence and took photos of the beasts. There were also maybe a dozen hens loose in the yard, quietly clucking away. I drove over to animal control with a letter containing a printout of my photos and a map of the address. I wrote that the hens were not of concern. At this point I considered finding another place to live until the situation was resolved. Thankfully Jascha went to Austin for 9 days and didn't have to deal with my insomnia-induced stress.

Finally Animal Control came out on 17 March and issued a two-day warning. My landlord met me at the house and her boyfriend went by to talk to the owners, who agreed they would "be finding homes for the roosters". I could see light at the end of the tunnel
. Three days later we were unable to get through to Animal Control. That evening I arrived home from work to find them still there. I was supposed to go to climbing at Joshua Tree with Dave that weekend, but I was so exhausted I could barely think and I didn't think it would be a good idea to be leading trad.

Monday my landlord and I both attempted to call Animal Control, but found that they was another of the days they don't bother to answer the phones. On Tuesday she went by and spoke to one of the officers to confirm that they would pay a return visit that week. Wednesday evening (22 days from our initial call to Animal Control) I returned home to find the roosters still there, but much to my amazement there were no crows on Thursday morning. Once again I crawled back through the fence and saw that the coops and all chickens had been removed. I didn't see any signs of a massive slaughter, so I figured they all found new homes. I wasn't sure why the hens were also removed, but I wasn't going to worry about it.

It took me another few weeks to mostly kick the insomnia. Yesterday morning I awoke to find a lone hen in our driveway of the same breed as I found in the neighbor's backyard. I had no idea where the hens were now living. Jascha helped me corner it and I picked it up and walked down the street toward the rooster house. Their gate was locked. A man in old Toyota van saw me and rolled down his window. He looked interested in the hen, so I handed it to him. He put it on his lap and drove off.

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