BUTTE — The Deer Lodge city council is studying whether it should revoke a conditional use permit from Walter Boese, who raises rare and exotic breed chickens within city limits.
Boese has been raising the fowl in his yard for nearly a decade, before the city enacted an ordinance limiting the number to six hens and no roosters. Boese secured a variance from the city at that time, which has allowed him to keep eight adult roosters, 32 adult hens and a number of juveniles to be donated to 4-H participants in Powell, Granite and Deer Lodge counties.
But complaints from several neighbors about the roosters crowing and odor has prompted the city’s public safety and zoning committee to consider revoking the variance.
“I should not have to obey the new ordinance because I was grandfathered in and raising birds five years prior to ordinance,” Boese said. “My runs are clean, and the birds are in good health. They’re trying to shut me down and prevent me from doing the work I do with the kids and provide a public service. It’s had me go through a lot of stress and anguish.”
But neighbors contend that the crowing and flies are nuisances.
“This thing he is doing for the 4-H kids is admirable,” said Bob Stone, who represents Boese and his neighbors. “But he was issued a permit and he was informed with the contract he signed if there were any complaints filed against him the permit would be rescinded. We have received a complaint – the noise of the roosters is a public nuisance. The smell of the housing has created a public nuisance.”
Stone said he has not been in Boese’s coops, but that several neighbors have said the smell, sounds and flies are unbearable.
But Boese said his poultry are the first flock in Montana to be certified disease-free by the National Poultry Improvement Plan, which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. He also contends that the field across the street from his house, where a rancher keeps a herd of cattle, hasn’t been flagged as a possible source of flies or smell.
Jodi Pauley, the Powell County extension agent, said Boese has been supportive of the 4-H program and children who want to show birds, but if the city shuts down his operation, the 4-H program will find other sources for birds.
“It’s a hurt to our local 4-H kids, and maybe anybody who wants poultry in the area and wants to learn about exotic chickens or rare breeds,” she said. “There are two sides to the story. He’s done OK with the city council but they do have an ordinance, he’s gotten by the ordinance. He’s a good guy and he’s trying to do a good thing but he has to follow the city things. It’s an unfortunate deal but some of it might be out of our control.”
The Montana Standard made calls to the neighbors who are concerned about the crowing and smell, but the calls were not returned.