French village rallies behind farmer told to quieten her chickens

A nearby second-home owner had contacted her lawyer to make the clucking stop

The 900 chickens near constant clucking drove the neighbour to take medication.
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A village in Savoie has rallied in support of a chicken farmer who was ordered to stop her birds from clucking so much after a complaint from a neighbour.

The dispute arose between farmer Sandrine and second-home owner Jacqueline, both known only by their first names.

Jacqueline had owned a second-home in the village of Saint-Ours in Savoie for 30 years when a new arrival transformed the neighbourhood by setting up a chicken farm with 900 birds 50m away.

“It’s so noisy now that sometimes it seems like I live next to an aviary or a kennel,” said Jacqueline.

“In spring and throughout summer, the chickens are clucking from 07:00 to 14:00, then stop for a little and start again from 16:00 to sunset,” said Jacqueline, who says she was so affected by the constant clucking, she started taking medication.

Earlier this year she tried to find an amicable solution with the farmer.

“We talked it over calmly to see if there was anything I could suggest,” said farmer Sandrine.

“I tried covering the windows to make it a bit darker because light can excite chickens.”

“She told me she would let me know if that wasn’t enough.”

How a cease and desist letter backfired

Soon after, the farmer received a cease-and-desist letter from her neighbour’s lawyer. “It said I had one month to stop the chicken’s noises.”

Rather than fight, the farmer thought it best to back down.

“It was really hard for me, I just wanted to pack it all in”, said Sandrine.

However on December 9, she changed her mind.

Of the commune’s 1,665 inhabitants, 200 gathered to voice their support, brandishing placards at Jacqueline’s house saying: des œufs de qualité, des œufs de proximité (good quality, local eggs).

“Since then people don’t even say hello to me anymore,” said Jacqueline. “Tradespeople who were meant to come to my house just don’t show up now.”

The case is unusual in that the second-home owner had been there for longer than the farmer, who was a recent arrival.

Under French law, a neighbour cannot complain about noise pollution which existed before they moved in.

Read more: New law to stop ‘townie’ complaints over French farm smells and noises

For Bernard Mogenet from the local farmer’s union, Fédération Départementale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles de la Savoie (FDSEA) this case typifies the lack of tolerance people can show for farming activity.

“Farmers are frequently being provoked by neighbours who have no tolerance even for small disturbances, rural noises, the sounds of our work,” he said.

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