Napa County is looking to further limit the number of roosters allowed per parcel in the unincorporated area, dropping the maximum allowed from 100 birds to four.

The restriction wouldn’t apply to commercial poultry farms — so long as their primary products are eggs or meat, and have county-issued permits — public and private schools, FFA and 4-H clubs, and hobbyists who receive approval through the county Agricultural Commissioner.

Limiting the number to four will require changing a two-year-old county ordinance, which set the limit at 25 per acre or 100 per parcel unless the owners could obtain an administrative permit from the county.

That permitting process proved to be a “drain” on county staff time, and the proposed change to the ordinance would eliminate it, according to the staff report.

The Napa County Planning Commission will take up the issue during its meeting Wednesday, and may make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

Changing the ordinance would require approval from the supervisors, but the changes wouldn’t take effect until April 2014. That would give time for people to remove their excess roosters. The changes are modeled after a similar program in Solano County, according to a staff report.

The ordinance is intended to crack down on illegal cock-fighting in the county and remove public nuisances associated with big rooster-raising operations in the unincorporated area.

However, county staff believe the permitting process has been an ineffective means of addressing this problem, according to the report. Staff believe that changing the ordinance is intended to simplify the process — either the operation fits one of the exemptions, can receive approval from the Ag Commissioner to be considered a hobbyist, or it violates the code.

Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark said most people don’t raise more than a few roosters. The Ag Commissioner’s Office has developed a set of standards for keeping the birds that includes giving them adequate water, shelter, clean quarters, enough room to spread their wings, and eliminates the ability to tether the birds, among other proposed ordinance changes.

“I don’t think it will create a lot of work because you’re really only talking about the small percentage of poultry raisers,” Clark said. “The vast majority of people probably only have a few birds.”

Since the ordinance was adopted in 2010, the county has cracked down on three cases where residents were raising more than 100 roosters per parcel. In two of the cases, the residents applied for permits, but both were denied because they didn’t adhere to the permit’s requirements.

One applicant has appealed the denial. Jack and Thelma Barrow, who are raising roosters near American Canyon, went before the Board of Supervisors earlier this year to have the denial overturned but were unsuccessful; the board has tentatively rejected the appeal.

County staff spent “considerable time working with applicants attempting to resolve issues and deficiencies” in their rooster-raising operations, the staff report stated.

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