A solution among neighbors
This may be a suburban (verging on rural) legend, but the story is that a farmer in West Tisbury, back in the 1980s, took drastic measures to silence his own rooster. Despite a palatial henhouse (so nice, in fact, that it later became a guesthouse) and fencing of the very best sort, the farmer's hens were disappearing, one or two a night. The culprits were raccoons - clever, surreptitious, bloody minded raccoons. Raccoons are notoriously hard to dissuade from eating hens. As time went on, the farmer made the raccoon herd pay a price, but ultimately, his flock of laying hens had dwindled, till only the rooster survived the raccoons' nightly rampages. The rooster, plunged into despair at the disappearance of his harem, began to crow intermittently day and night. Soon, he was crowing round the clock. The farmer, a bit in despair himself, decided to put the lovesick cock out of its misery, so one morning, as dawn broke, he threw open his bedroom window, took careful aim with his 12-gauge at the deranged fowl, and blam, there was peace in the neighborhood once more.
Peace is to be prized, in the neighborhood or wherever. The farmer in the preceding story raised pigs, cattle, and horses, as well as vanishing hens, on his 90-acre spread. The bereaved rooster he dispatched cannot have bothered the neighbors with his lamentations. In most neighborhoods, like the one in Lambert's Cove, which is the focus of the current dispute between one property owner who keeps chickens and guinea hens and another nearby who objects to hearing them, a 12-gauge solution would not be appropriate.
James Athearn is a real farmer and a thoughtful advocate for protecting what remains of historical Martha's Vineyard, the rural, agricultural community. Commenting on the West Tisbury issue, Mr. Athearn told Times reporter Susan Vaughn that a rooster "ought to be able to crow a reasonable amount of time..." Certainly, we all agree with that modest proposition.
Indeed, Mr. Athearn and the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society argue that there should be no restraints on backyard agriculture, which they call "a fundamental part of the Island culture." But, Mr. Athearn, without question a reasonable fellow, also told The Times that one should respect one's neighbors, and by the way, not allow guinea hens to roam.
And there's the rub, because small-scale agriculture is part of a collection of ancient pursuits common to Vineyarders, but so is summer vacationing, retreating from the noise and abuse of city and suburban life to the quiet, leafy confines of your viciously expensive vacation house. If the former has persisted since the 18th century, then the latter has staked its claim since the 19th. If we put the whole matter up to the Wampanoags, they might very well conclude that small-scale farming and vacationing are both out of keeping with the Vineyard's true ancient rites of existence, which tended toward hunting and gathering.
It may be that here is a perfect example of an issue that ought to be resolved by reasonable accommodation. A reasonable neighbor who wants to keep chickens talks to a reasonable neighbor who wants some peace and quiet, and they come to a reasonable accommodation. There's more promise in such an outcome than in all the rule-making to which the planners and regulators aspire.