DELAWARE COUNTY, Okla. (KTUL) — When Shae and Colby Duncan moved to their home outside of Colcord about seven years ago, they thought they’d be alone in this part of the country.
That is until their next-door neighbor moved in 900 feet away.
“Hope started to fade away. This is reality, we’ve got to deal with it,” said Colby.
The Duncan’s are surrounded by ten chicken houses, housing tens of thousands of birds at any given time. The Duncan family doesn’t open windows, they keep their AC running all year, and limit their time outside when it gets to be too much.
“I have no problem with someone raising chickens, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. This isn’t right,” aid Colby.
“Jim Reese, right here. Feller, I tell you you’re making a lot of people angry with that smirk on your face. This is not funny, you’re messing with our lives, families,” said Eric Rusk, during a town hall meeting with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Congressman Markwayne Mullin.
Rusk’s frustration is echoed all throughout Delaware County. Over the last year, Delaware County has gone from sleepy farm country to the home of the booming poultry business.
“This isn’t about the right, this isn’t about the left,” Congressman Mullin told the crowd. “This is about our community and getting it right for our community.”
After the explosive town hall meeting, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture announced it’s freezing poultry farm applications until a council studies the impact of all the farms in Delaware County.
It’s welcome news, but for many it’s too late.
“I’ve heard in these different meetings, that people’s wells are going dry. Springs are going dry,” said one woman, during the town hall.
Even the government isn’t sure exactly how much water chicken farms used in 2017.
Farmers are required to file a ‘water use’ report each year to the Oklahoma Water Resource Board. However, two-thirds of all of the chicken farmers in Delaware County haven’t filed a report for 2017.
“I don’t think we’re being received. People at the state level think this is a joke. They don’t realize the amount of people and families this is impacting,” said Eric.
The six new chicken houses 200 feet away from Eric aren’t up and running yet, but he’s bracing himself for impact.
“What are you going to sue them for?” asked Eric. “Oklahoma law says they can do this. What are you going to get them for?”
Back at the Duncans, a rainy day provides some relief to the family. They can sit outside for a little bit without smelling the chickens.
“It’s not right. It might be right by law right now, but the legislation has failed local people in this part of the state,” said Colby.
The houses have become an unwelcome neighbor. Despite new changes, that neighbor is there to stay.