Are chicken ranchers overtaking the Hamptons? With more and more East Enders raising fowl, the problem of early-morning crowing is back on the local agenda, just in time for the beginning of high season. A few years back, Southampton Village instituted a ban on all farm animals, and the debate is on in East Hampton.
Even the elites here love fowl play. Ira Statfeld and Michael Recanati, the East Hampton Democratic-donor power couple, just ordered some rare breeds to add to the flock they keep on property they own in Amagansett. Sandra Ferguson, former president of the local League of Women Voters who lives in Bridgehampton, is also a fan. She once taught one of her hens to jump in return for warm popcorn. “We find them engaging and interesting animals,” she says. And “the eggs are delicious,” says architect Frederick Stelle, who keeps a small flock on his six acres in North Haven, not far from Christie Brinkley’s place. “The yolks are yellower. They’re a little firmer.”
But do they belong among the summer homes of the rich and famous? Last summer, fears that chicken feed was attracting rats to a property right on North Main Street in East Hampton attracted the Suffolk County Health department.
Of course, the real problem is the roosters, “the Mick Jaggers of the chicken world,” as early-riser Stelle calls them. Laura Nolan, the mayor of North Haven, keeps her foul-tempered rooster, Sonny, in the box on weekend mornings out of courtesy to weekenders but still gets grief for the noise. “That’s not what the East End is about,” she says of those who don’t appreciate the rural character. “Even though it’s becoming that.”
East Hampton town supervisor Bill McGintee is working with the town attorneys to look into possible solutions, including requiring that birds be confined to coops until a reasonable matinal hour. Dai Dayton, who has a rooster named Mister Man in Bridgehampton, says arrivistes to the Hamptons should leave well enough alone. “How can you move in next to someone who has animals and say they can’t have them?”
Tell it to East Hampton’s animal-control supervisor, Betsy Bambrick, whose 12-year-old daughter brought home two chicks, genders unknown. “The deal breaker is if they become roosters,” she says. “Because I don’t want to deal with the crowing either.”