County Unlawfully Cites Citizen for Chicken Noise

chickens in backyard coopWhen Dan Gisselquist wished to teach business principles to his home schooled son Jesse, he started by having him write a proposal for project of his choice.

At 12, he chose to write a proposal to keep chickens. When the proposal passed muster, Gisselquist helped his son build a chicken coop and bought him some chickens. A year later, Jesse wrote a second proposal for turkeys. Together with his father’s seed money, Jesse was able to build an impressive home business for a 14 year old. He now sells baby chicks, baby turkey poults, organic turkeys, and chicken eggs.

What neither Gisselquist counted on was legal trouble for their lawful activities: on 14 April, the Fauquier County Magistrate, C. M. Harding, heard the complaints of Mrs. Elizabeth Connell, regarding the chickens, turkeys, and guinea kept by her neighbor’s, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Gisselquist.

Upon hearing her complaint, Mr. Harding wrote a citation against the Gisselquists, alleging that they did “unlawfully keep noisy animals which can be heard across property lines.” Apparently Mr. Harding found reason to believe that they were in violation of Section 13.5-3 of the Fauquier Code–specifically Fauquier’s noise ordinance.

turkey and guineaWhat makes this absolutely amazing is that it appears the magistrate chose not to read the county ordinance that he charged the Gisselquists with violating. In particular section 13.5-4, Exemptions, which exempts  “Agricultural activities” from possible violations of the noise ordinance. If keeping chickens, turkeys, and/or guineas is not an “agricultural activity”, then what is?

Even the zoning ordinance for the Gisselquists’ property specifically permits them to run a “crop/livestock farm” on their property, allowing them to raise up to 70 chickens on their property if they so choose.

This citation forced the Gisselquists into court to defend their lawful actions against a zealous prosecutor, who apparently hadn’t read the law either.

farm_to_consumer_legal_defense_fundWith the help of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the Gisselquists argued that Fauquier’s noise ordinance was unconstitutionally vague on its face, since two other nearly identical noise ordinances had been struck down by the Virginia court system. When faced with the prospect of having the noise ordinance struck down, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office declined to further prosecute the case, leading to its dismissal on 15 May, 2013.

According to the Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, Paul R. Walther, they chose to not prosecute the case further, “for good cause shown”, and noted that “this [noise] ordinance is under review for redrafting due to concerns about its constitutionality.”

It is, however, a shame that this questionably constitutional law still remains on the books. This means that honest, law abiding citizens will be unable to anticipate when they might be in violation of the noise ordinance. It means that anyone who complains can continue to haul honest men and women into court for a violation they could not foresee ahead of time.

chicken eggs in nestThe Gisselquists keep chickens and turkeys for the healthy meat and eggs that backyard poultry can provide. Their small poultry flock has also provided the Gisselquists with the opportunity to teach business skills to their eldest son, Jesse Gisselquist, who keeps the flock and sells any excess eggs or meat.

In a time of economic stress, teaching true entrepreneurial business skills is a true value. It is unfortunate however; that these skills also need to include the legal skills of how to defend lawful actions against a county ran as a zealous police state.

If Fauquier County was truly interested in being a business friendly, agricultural friendly community, we need to educate our local officials so that they don’t charge law abiding citizens with criminal conduct simply because they haven’t read their own laws. We also need to rewrite our noise ordinance so that it is consistent with our values, and sufficiently well-defined so as to allow someone to know whether their conduct is lawful or not.

pastured_thanksgiving_turkeyIn the meantime, the Gisselquists will continue to keep a small poultry flock, and their son will sell fresh eggs by subscription year round, or organic, pasture raised turkey’s come Thanksgiving for any and all who might be interested. Come early, though, because the supply is limited.




9 Responses to County Unlawfully Cites Citizen for Chicken Noise

  1. Barbara Reply

    September 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    I am dealing with the same situation in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island. I have had a French Copper Marans rooster for 5 years on 2 acres and most everyone says they love to hear him greet the morning. We also have him to hatch out new chicks each spring.
    A neighbor who is annoyed that I complained about his collapsing unsafe retaining wall is retaliating by now complaining about the rooster. There is no rooster ordinance and the coop is 600′ through a densely wooded pine grove from his property. The police have banged on my door at 6am over a dozen times and each day they write another summons. I am waiting for my hearing date. In the meantime, I am trying to find a place where I can board the rooster until this is settled because I do not want to antagonize this bully who has already run me off the road. Any thoughts?

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  3. Anon Reply

    November 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Reason has been replaced by favoritism in this County.

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  5. Bosun Reply

    June 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Let me count the ways… First, the county did not cite anyone! The warrant was sworn out by a private citizen, not the county or anyone connected with it. Second, the magistrate that wrote the citation is not a county employee, but a judicial officer in the state court system, just like the judge. Come on, Veritas, get the facts straight!

    • jcivitas Reply

      June 12, 2013 at 7:02 am


      You can pick nits with Mr. Gisselquist, (who wrote the article by the way) if you want, but he is the citizen who was cited, and then had to defend himself in court against a prosecutor and magistrate who could not read the law correctly.

      Are you saying Mr. Gisselquist does not know what happened to himself?

      Are you defending the government officials who attempted to prosecute him for lawful activity because they themselves cannot read the law, ordinance, or code that they are charged to enforce?

      What would have happened had he not secured legal representation? Would this just be another case of a citizen rolling over in the face of unlawful government prosecution?

      Considering your remarks on these subjects, it seems as though you have some interest in defending the unlawful activities of this specific government; do you work for Fauquier County?

      Where DO you stand on this sir?

  6. Chickens & Farms violate the "Viewshed" Reply

    June 10, 2013 at 11:19 am

    What is wrong with Fauquier? Who is running this place? First they went after the wineries wanting to shut them down at 6pm, wanting to put in the ordinance to “call 911” if you have a complaint about a wineries lights or noise and “no personal private gatherings” on private property. Now they are requiring site plans and permits for birthday parties for little girls on private farm land and requiring small family farmers to pay at $150 tax to be able to sell what they have been doing for centuries.

    Let me guess, farming interferes with the “view shed” right?

    In researching the Soviet Republic of Fauquier, it shows that nearly 40% of this county is tied up in conservation easement. Is this happening because Fauquier is allegedly run by an extremist enviro-warrior group called the “Piedmont Environmental Council”? I think they go by PEC. Apparently according to many, there are Lots of horror stories with this group?

    Can someone shed some light on this and why hasn’t the AG or Governor done something to help these poor farmers? There are over a dozen farmers/ wineries suing this county to get their property rights and freedom back.

    Disgusting. If there was ever a case for an intervention, it is Fauquier County local government treading on the rights of Americans.

    Someone do something to stop this madness.

  7. Gregg Jones Reply

    June 10, 2013 at 9:36 am

    We hear about these injustices too much. We can clean house if we vote and elect good people to the BOS. Happy to hear about Jessee.

  8. Bernadette Barber Reply

    June 10, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Great Story!! Cheers, Jesse! Keep Farming..sell that poultry! We need good wholesome food!

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