Billinge woman hauled before justices over pet rooster's noise

Catherine Hankey with her cockerel Chopper
Catherine Hankey with her cockerel Chopper

A woman has been hauled before justices over the din her pet rooster makes.

Catherine Hankey admitted eight noise abatement order breaches when the council brought a private prosecution before Wigan magistrates.

But the 33-year-old said afterwards she felt extremely hard done to as there are several other cocks kept locally - including one at a community farm just yards away. She also feared her bird - named Chopper - might now have to be put down.

However, Wigan Council has robustly defended its decision to bring the unusual case to court saying the bird had been a nuisance to neighbours.

Hankey, of Greenways, Billinge, at first indicated a not guilty plea before abandoning the option of a trial on financial grounds.

She then accepted Chopper had been a source of noise picked up on monitors installed in the complainant’s home. That, the court told her, was enough to constitute a breach and meant her evidence blaming other animals as well was only mitigation rather than a defence.

Prosecuting for Wigan Council, Jessica Hodgkinson said the abatement order had been breached eight days running in August and September.

Officers responding to complaints about the sound made by the bird tracked it down to Hankey’s home and an order gave her 28 days to shut Chopper up.

She rang the council for advice and was told he needed keeping in the dark until later in the day or a smaller hutch, but there might be animal welfare issues with this. After the deadline, noise monitoring equipment was re-installed and persistent crowing was recorded daily.

Hankey suggested it was impossible to say her animal alone was responsible but Ms Hodgkinson said the sounds were “uniform and clear”, meaning it probably came from one bird rather than several.

Following a long discussion, the bench gave her a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered her to pay costs and a surcharge totalling £320.

Afterwards Hankey, who is studying animal management at college, said she felt singled out and claimed other complained-about organisations and individuals who kept cockerels had been overlooked.

She said: “I live in a semi-rural area and there are three cockerels in a small area. At the back of my property there’s a hedgerow dividing it from a large farm which has free-roaming hens and cockerels. There must be 30-plus animals there.

“I’ve been told the farm has also received complaints from the same person but its bird is still there.

“I could not take this to trial because of the cost but I feel the situation is not fair. There’s been a big uproar on social media with a lot of support for my cockerel.

“Chopper was actually hatched in an incubator by my son who then hand-reared him. He lived in our house for the first few months.

“He will probably have to be euthanised now.”

Kathryn Rees, assistant director of transformation at Wigan Council said: “This is a very unusual case and is the only one that we have taken forward for action of this nature.

“Noise that is excessive and unreasonable can adversely affect someone’s quality of life. It can also have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

“We felt that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate the effect that this continued noise was having on neighbours, which is why it was decided to proceed with enforcement action.

“We do actively encourage people to report noise nuisance to us and we have a number of different measures we can take to tackle issues in the first instance where a satisfactory outcome can’t be found for both parties.”