Johnnie B Good can remain on duty protecting his flock of hens and ducks.
The El Paso County board of commissioners ruled Tuesday that the rooster doesn't have to leave his home in Security near the Colorado Springs Airport. Grace Syme, Johnnie's owner, got unanimous approval from the board for a variance of use, making the rooster a legal resident of her home despite a 2013 change in county code prohibiting roosters in residential areas.
"I do have a rooster and I want to keep him," Syme said to the five commissioners, noting that Johnnie B Good "is always on duty" around the clock, sounding an alert whenever he perceives trouble approaching.
It was one of the rooster's warning crows that prompted a resident in an adjacent neighborhood to file a noise complaint with the county in July. The complaint led to Syme's quest to obtain a variance. According to the county code, residents in neighborhoods like the one Syme lives in can have a "reasonable amount of hens," but no roosters.
Nina Ruiz, a project manager with the county's Planning and Community Development Department, visited Syme's urban farm in late 2016. She found that Syme owns her rooster and chickens and four ducks as well. Ruiz said Tuesday that only two ducks are allowed, as long as there are no other pets in the home.
So the variance for the rooster was tweaked to include the water fowl. Ruiz said her office sent out 10 letters to Syme's neighbors, seeking their input. The planning department got quick responses, receiving five letters supporting Johnnie B Good. And nobody objected to the bird, Ruiz said.
"To me he's a very special rooster," Syme said.
While Johnnie will be allowed to stay, one of three conditions will keep the rooster from crowing too often or too loudly. Johnnie B Good is required to wear a no-crow collar at all times, according to the variance of use. The other conditions state that Syme cannot replace the rooster or the ducks when they are gone.
Syme's daughter Rebekah Syme was at Tuesday's BOCC meeting to support her mother. Rebekah Syme echoed her mother's assessment of the rooster's role at the home, saying "He is a protector of the flock. He is a watchdog."
Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, who represents District 4, where Syme lives, warned the mother and daughter that encouraging Johnnie's "watchdog" behavior and the related crowing could lead to the county revisiting the variance if the noise becomes a problem.
The code was tweaked in 2013 to disallow roosters. Grace Syme wouldn't have known Johnnie was in violation of the law if the complaint hadn't come from a homeowner in the Barnstormers neighborhood off Charro Drive, a little more than an eighth-mile from Grace Syme's home.
Ruiz said her visit to the area came after Johnnie B Good was already wearing the no-crow collar, which doesn't completely end crowing but makes the noise much quieter.
"When I did my site inspection, I did hear the rooster crow one time," she said.
Grace Syme said she hopes that her experience will help educate other people in similar situations to take the proper steps to make sure their livestock is legal.
"I have learned so much coming here and complaining about the rooster rules," she said.