Gender confusion causes complaints
by Jan Schlain
Signs by the front door of a home north of Washtenaw read, "The Rooster may crow but the hen delivers the goods" and "An Old Rooster and Young Chick live here."
"Those are jokes," says the man of the house, who will remain nameless because he's on shaky legal ground. His neighbors weren't amused by the "cockle-doodle-dos" coming from the couple's back yard.
"The neighbors don't understand," explains the man, a U-M professor emeritus. "They think you're not respecting them, but you don't know you have [roosters] until they crow. The problem is, it's difficult to buy chickens by sex." He says his supplier has "a hundred different varieties, and only ten can you buy by sex."
Amid considerable publicity and hilarity, Ann Arbor approved backyard poultry farming back in June 2008. With neighbors' consent, Ann Arborites can now own up to four hens-but no roosters.
The retired prof understands why the roosters' crowing is not music to his neighbors' ears: "They just don't crow in the morning. They crow all day. We had one that crowed about a hundred times a day." To mollify the neighbors, the couple recently gave their roosters to Domino's Farms for its petting zoo. But that still leaves them with six chickens-two more than allowed. Along with a couple of elderly Wyandottes, he says, "we have two Golden Sebrights and two female Phoenix." Then he admits, "Well, one of the two is a rooster."
While the other roosters were around, the male Phoenix passed as a hen-but he started to crow after they left. The man says he still doesn't know which one is a rooster: "We have heard him crow, but we haven't seen him crow."
[Originally published in July, 2009.]