SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A next door neighbor’s wandering chickens and turkeys have caused so much trouble for a South Kingstown couple that they’re asking the town to intervene, and perhaps craft a law to help keep the pesky birds off their property.
Denise Mann told the Town Council on Monday that the neighbor’s chickens freely roam into their yard. The couple then try to chase them off their South Road property, but it’s difficult, and they always return.
“My husband and I have lived here since 1976 — the chicken and turkey owner moved into the neighboring property about three years ago,” she said. “My husband is 70 and I am 66. We are constantly running them off our property, as they are digging up our grounds and leaving excrement everywhere.”
The birds also destroy the couple’s flowers and grass, she said.
One day the couple’s arthritic 14-year-old dog chased them, and his hips gave out and he couldn’t walk for days, Mann said. “We were at the point where we thought we would have to put him down.”
Another day, Mann tried to chase the chickens out before the dog spotted them. She tripped and fell on her face.
“We are too old for this,” she said. “I am in fear that one of us is going to get seriously hurt.”
Mann said the neighbor has more than 50 chickens and is also raising turkeys. One day, she said, she had 11 turkeys flying toward her.
“We share a private driveway and there is no way for me to block them off from coming on our property. I have spoken to him numerous times and he is non-cooperative,” she said. “In the beginning when his new flock was running free and I asked him to keep them in his yard, he put up a fence. They have greatly multiplied since then and some are continuously loose — even on the bike path. He has numerous roosters and they are crowing all day, but I have learned to live with that.”
The Manns, who are retired, said they do not have the money to hire an attorney and take the neighbor to court.
She’s hoping the town could “make history” by crafting and passing an ordinance.
Solicitor Mike Ursillo said he would research similar ordinances that came before the council in early 2020 and forward the information to the council for its next meeting.
After seeing the options, if the council wanted to pursue and ordinance it would then have to set up a public hearing at a later date and notify all registered farm owners in the town.
“They have the right to be here like anyone else when you have the discussion,” Ursillo said.
Councilor Rory McEntee did not want any discussion of the issue at the next meeting, and said it deserves more time for consideration.
“Something like this has a vast effect across all of town, specifically farmers, it’s a critical industry in our town. I don’t think it should be before us two weeks from now as to whether we should have a public hearing to enact an ordinance ... I think it’s too soon.”
Councilwoman Jess Rose said in the meantime the town should provide more immediate help to the Manns, perhaps from the animal control officer.
“How are we going to feel tomorrow if one of them falls from chasing 12 turkeys off of their property,” Rose said. “Do you want that on your conscience, because I do not.”
Ursillo said he’d work with the animal control officer to visit and talk with the neighbor.
“But the way to be really effective would be to have an ordinance,” he said.
Police Chief Joel Ewing-Chow said the department likely can’t file a malicious damage charge in this case.
“We have animals that are getting out and doing the damage,” he said. “It’s not a person or an individual. I don’t think we’d be able to successfully prosecute the owner for malicious damage.”