News

Santa Cruz County Revises Ordinance on Rooster Restrictions

Proposed ordinance reworded to target only gamecocks

Ariana Huemer is director of Hen Harbor, a nonprofit sanctuary with a goal of recasting chickens as companion animals and finding homes for the birds. PHOTO: ISABELLA BACKMAN

Santa Cruz County officials have revised a proposed ordinance for the county that would have restricted roosters in residential agricultural zones. The ordinance has been reworded so that it now targets only gamecocks, the breed of roosters used in cockfighting. To local bird sanctuary director Ariana Huemer, this change is a victory for backyard roosters and their owners.

Last month, Good Times ran a story on the proposed ordinance and the concerns Huemer had about its implications for her sanctuary, Hen Harbor. 

Santa Cruz officials hoped to fight back against cockfighting operations within the county by restricting the number of roosters permitted in residential agricultural zones. However, because Huemer often receives multiple emails a day about taking in unwanted roosters, she was worried that the new proposed limits would have shut down her operations. Due to the significant inaccuracy of chick sexing, abandoned roosters are among the most vulnerable residents of the bird safe haven.

Huemer is part of a Facebook group for homesteaders that formed in response to the original version of the proposed ordinance. She learned about the change to target only gamecocks when one of the members of the group posted the revised ordinance.

Huemer believes that getting her story out there and the outpouring of public input “made all the difference.” Now that the ordinance has been narrowed to specifically limit cockfighting breeds, she is relieved that pet roosters will no longer be threatened by the restrictions. 

Huemer hopes that county officials will be more transparent about proposed regulations in the future.

“Before the article, almost no one had heard about [the original proposed restrictions] or even knew it existed,” she says. She had only learned of it herself by chance after talking to a fellow rooster owner through social media.

Now, however, Hen Harbor’s variety of rooster breeds can continue to live out their days among the hens, turkeys, peacocks and geese that roam the sanctuary.                                

“This situation is a great example of how citizens can organize to affect change,” Huemer says. 


27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Greg Lehr

    May 21, 2021 at 12:44 am

    I’m very happy to hear. I hope the county continues to work with this lady to protect animals like roosters in one of the few places they’re allowed to live.

  2. Jasmin Jhamb

    May 20, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    I am so thankful for this revision in the ordinance. The original proposal had loomed as a menacing threat to poultry enthusiasts as well as people dedicated to rescuing roosters and giving them a home. The revised ordinance is much better, and I am hopeful that it will target exclusively criminals who mean roosters much harm, by raising them for the purpose of cockfighting. I certainly hope that the revised ordinance operates in a manner consistent with its intended goal.
    I appreciate the time and effort that was put into revising this ordinance. Thank you to all those who heard and addressed our concerns.

  3. PrettyJhamb

    May 20, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Thankful I am so joyful about the revise. I am so glad the county listened to our qualms. Thank you Good Times for publicizing this matter that was so confounding and heart wrenching for us.

  4. Denise M

    May 19, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for reporting on this issue. I recently met a sweet homeless rooster that was set free to fend for himself. It is hard to understand why people abandon their pets. I am very interested to learn more about issues such as this. Roosters are pets too. This is a great start!!

  5. Kallee

    May 19, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    I am so happy to see this change to the ordinance. A huge win for the roosters and reinforces the fact that we can all come together to work towards a smart and practical solution. And the county listened and responded — I’m thrilled. I also very much appreciate the tireless work that folks do for birds in need.

  6. Andrea davis

    May 19, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you for covering this issue and the great work that Ariana has done for animals. I don’t think anyone making these laws could have had so much insight into how many lives were saved, and the incredible workload this could have added to county government.

  7. Peter linn

    May 19, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    So glad to hear that it didn’t pass i personally have 3 roosters and am glad I get to keep them all

  8. Mike

    May 19, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    Outrageous to suggest that roosters, the male half of a species that has been domesticated for thousands of years, are too violent to keep at a house or around children. There are dogs that are violent, and I’m sure you are not trying to ban them. Like most people, you probably have the sense to not let small children in the presence of a maladjusted dog. You can do the same with a 5 pound rooster. And if you don’t like them, it’s easy to move to some neighborhood that doesn’t allow them. Thank you for this article and drawing attention to an issue some people don’t think about

  9. Meg

    May 19, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    I have rooster, children and dogs. All get along because I meet all of their needs ensuring their natural behaviors and requirements are fulfilled. To be respectful of my neighbors I maintain my flock on a respectable schedule to keep the peace for others. With some extra work and educating those unfamiliar with meeting a chickens needs more people would see that Roosters make great pets and additions to your family.

  10. Karen

    May 19, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks to Arianna and every person that rescues and cares for survivors of egg and chicken meat industry. Chickens are indeed the most abused animals on Earth – in the U.S. alone, some 25 MILLION chickens are killed every day. That doesn’t include the millions of males that are killed immediately after birth because they are worthless to the industry. There are virtually no laws on the books to protect these innocent creatures from the horrific abuse they endure. I am so glad that Arianna and other sanctuaries care for these animals, so they can live their lives in peace and be ambassadors so people can learn to live without killing them.

  11. Jessica

    May 19, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for this article! Roosters are the most exploited and abused animal on the planet. The fact that it’s not legal to keep roosters in most places directly contributes to their abandonment, suffering, and death. Every year people buy millions of unsexed chicks DESPITE that males are not legal. This is irresponsible on the part of the buyers AND sellers but it remains a reality. The least we can do is create places where these boys can live in peace.

  12. Kati King

    May 19, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    I’m glad the County responded to our concerns about banning roosters. Thank you for shedding light on this issue.

  13. Kelly Rutkowski

    May 19, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    Bryant, I am sorry you feel this way about roosters, because what you say about them simply isn’t true! I absolutely ADORE my roosters (yes, I have several because I like them so much).

    Plus, hens are happier when they have a rooster caring for them. A rooster helps keep them safe from predators (although ideally they would be in a predator proof pen), looks after them, helps minimize bullying and drama with the hens, finds treats for them, helps find them a nest, and so much more.

    In addition, your statement about them all being aggressive and unsafe near children isn’t true either. In fact, I have photos of little toddlers holding several of my roosters.

    I would never keep a flock of hens without a rooster. They would be so unhappy, as would I, for having a beautiful rooster around brings us all great happiness and makes the chicken keeping experience so much better!!

  14. Jessica Vulgamott

    May 19, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    Roosters make great pets! If people didn’t want to hear animals they shouldn’t live in the country then! The cows, peepers, dogs, and trains are a lot louder then the roosters, where I am. Chickens in general are wonder pets and there is more to them then what humans get out of them!

  15. Tiffany

    May 19, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Little roosters being so much joy to me and my neighbors 💕 They dance for treats, reduce the tick population drastically, protect their hens (and family) l, and are quieter than dogs!

    Where else are these roosters supposed to go? They’ll end up in fighting rings otherwise, as they are forced to be rehomed. Thank you for covering this article!

  16. Bailey

    May 19, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    Not sure why you said roosters aren’t good pets, Bryant. I have a rooster who is the only one that lets me cuddle him. He’s the only thing that can calm me down when I have a panic attack.. He’s the only thing that keeps the hawks away from my girls during the day. At night, he’s the last one in the coop and is the only one to cuddle tonight. As rural properties encroach on agricultural lands, homeowners need to be aware of what comes with their zoning. If you don’t like roosters, live in a more suburban area or help your neighbor build a coop further away from your bedroom. Roosters play an integral part in my life and people like Arianah play an integral part in saving roosters that are abused, mistreated and unwanted. PS My roosters don’t crow until 7am, which is pretty reasonable. I 100% have experienced the opposite of what you mention, in terms of incorrect sexing and hurting children (my 9 year old loves him dearly). If you live near Hen Haven, where I have visited, you are not in a purely residential area. Great job Santa Cruz Supervisors, for removing a ridiculous law and focusing on cockfighting, the real atrocity!!

  17. Chloe P

    May 19, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    If you don’t like roosters, then don’t move into an area that allows roosters. What’s the problem?

  18. Tiffany Ballou

    May 19, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    This is wondering news and thank you for the update and for covering this. Knowing that backyard roosters are safe is a great feeling. To the individual with the anti-rooster comment, you obviously have a closed mind and heart because those who have opened their lives to roosters and hens as pets knows how wonderful they are and what a great outcome this is!

  19. Lucy

    May 19, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Great info thank you

  20. Lucy

    May 19, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Good info. I didn’t know it was just for cockgame. I have gotten missexed chickens one recently. By the way they kill the baby roosters when they sex them. Sad.

  21. Hessica V

    May 19, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you for shedding some light on this issue! Roosters make great pets and I’m glad nobody will have to lose their babies!

  22. Kirsten Rosenberg

    May 19, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    At last, common sense has prevailed! Definitely a win-win.

  23. Scott Plummer

    May 19, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for covering this issue.

  24. Bryant Watson

    May 19, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Great for the Roosters
    But
    Having birds that do a morning crowing at 4:00 am every day is not fair to the community
    Your neighbors have a right to peace
    People who choose roosters as pets are not considerate of the people arround them
    Hens make great pets
    Roosters do not
    Hens lay eggs
    Roosters make great dinner
    I was raised on a local farm in Soquel
    In 20 years of raising hens
    We never got 1 Rooster due to sexing inaccuracy
    Roosters are great for a commercial environment
    Not any type of residential area
    Roosters can be very aggressive and are never safe arround children

    Rules and regulations are to protect the many not the one
    Sad to hear it changed

  25. Jewel

    May 19, 2021 at 9:56 am

    So glad more roosters will be allowed to continue living with this change. I hope some day animal control can distinguish between a cockfighting operation and a rescue. Seems like basic knowledge an AC officer should have, but apparently not.

  26. Kelly Rutkowski

    May 19, 2021 at 9:40 am

    This is so great!!! I am so happy that the ordinance was modified. It also demonstrates how one person can make a difference!! Go Ariana! 🙂🙂

  27. Joey

    May 19, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Thanks for covering this important issue. I appreciate the important work that Ariana and Hen Harbor do in our community to care for abandoned and abused animals.

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