Bellevue council not crowing over its roosters

It’s no laughing matter when the cries of a rooster keep neighbors awake in a crowded city, but members of the Bellevue City Council couldn’t help but chuckle this week as they considered whether to ban the noisy fowl.

City officials began mulling the question last fall after a couple complained about the noise, day and night, of a backyard rooster.

Code-compliance officers and some council members were surprised at the time to learn there was no law against keeping roosters in the Eastside city of 130,000 human souls.

The bird that started it all is still there, but its Northeast Bellevue owner now takes the animal indoors at night.

There are also roosters at city-owned Kelsey Creek Farm Park, and City Attorney Lori Riordan said she’s heard of one in Newport Shores “that is very popular with the residents of that neighborhood.”

As for any “nonconforming fowl” already in Bellevue, Councilmember Jennifer Robertson asked at a meeting Monday, “they wouldn’t be sent off to the butcher, they could stay?” Riordan assured her they could be grandfathered under any ban for the remainder of their lives.

Council members also got a lesson in biology.

When Robertson noted that hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs, Mayor Conrad Lee observed that he didn’t know that, and Councilmember John Chelminiak said he only recently learned it himself.

Chelminiak shared snippets of news gleaned from the Internet about other cities’ battles over roosters, including Los Angeles, where, he said, one rooster was allowed per property — or more “if the rooster was in the entertainment business.”

Riordan said laws in other cities vary, from Sammamish, which allows roosters, to Seattle, which does not.

Some cities also ban peacocks and their female counterparts, peahens, Riordan told the council in a memo, because they are known for their “very loud, and sometimes alarming noises, which have been likened to a human scream.”

In the end, the council voted 5 to 2 to kick the question to the Planning Commission, asking it to recommend whether to ban or at least restrict roosters and peafowl.

Chelminiak and Councilmember Claudia Balducci voted not to pursue a rooster ban.

“When roosters are outlawed, only outlaws will have roosters,” Balducci quipped.