Madisonville wrestles with rooster regulation, but noisy birds are an issue in New Orleans, too

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Perhaps to escape government regulation.

But in tiny Madisonville, where crowing roosters have been part of the town’s identity for decades, efforts to pass restrictions on chickens are proving complicated and controversial.

Two proposed ordinances — one of which would have limited roosters to properties of over an acre and another that would have limited the number of chickens people can keep — have gone nowhere.

After a lengthy and spirited debate at a Town Council meeting last week, with most people coming down in favor of the chickens, Mayor Jean Pelloat told the council to go back to the drawing board.

But Madisonville isn’t the only area municipality getting its feathers ruffled over roosters.

In New Orleans, feral rooster populations are growing, and ever since Hurricane Katrina, some neighborhoods have been invaded by chickens and roosters that were either abandoned or escaped from people who once kept them as pets, according to Beth Renfro, an officer with the Louisiana SPCA.

Roosters have been illegal in New Orleans since 2012, when they were deemed “wild and exotic animals,” in the same group as monkeys, panthers, venomous snakes and a whole host of other noxious and rare breeds that cannot be kept as pets.

But the “rooster raids” that the LA/SPCA used to conduct as part of an animal-control contract with the city have been eliminated because of budget cuts.

Now people like 69-year-old Irish Channel resident Willie Crain are hearing something that they never before experienced in decades of city living: crack-of-dawn crowing.

“I was just so surprised when I heard it!” said Crain, who has lived on her street for 42 years. “I said, ‘Roosters, now that’s something new.’ ”

In Madisonville, chickens aren’t new, but the idea of regulating them is.

When a resident complained about a raucous rooster in the late 1980s, popular opinion was decidedly pro-bird. Town officials were inclined to treat the complaint as a joke, and they even staged a show trial for the offending rooster.

But Pelloat said that complaints about roosters arise about once a year. This year started off with one from a prominent citizen: Councilman Chris Hitzman, who said his neighbor’s rooster keeps his family up at night.