Monday, Oct. 6, 2003 | 11:08 a.m.
If the smell doesn't get you, the pigeons might.
For North Las Vegans who moved next door to the R.C. Farms pig farm, the sometimes strong odors were to be expected. But what many farm neighbors didn't count on were the hundreds, maybe thousands, of pigeons that also live and hang around their rooftops. Neighbors blamed the large pigeon population on the ready supply of scrap food at the nearby farm.
Farm owner Robert Combs said pigeons and other birds have always flocked to the farm. And as residential development has grown closer to his farm over the years, the birds have begun visiting his neighbors too.
In the residential neighborhood just south of the part of the farm where hundreds of cattle are raised, bird feathers float through the air on a windy day, and dead birds can be seen on top of or around a few homes.
"Every week my husband picks up dead birds. Sometimes it's five or six or more," said Tammy Denton, who lives on Warm Glen Avenue just south of the farm.
Every few houses in Denton's neighborhood, the telltale signs of pigeons can be seen -- splatters of white and gray droppings on the roof tiles, and in some cases, small piles of pigeon poop in the corners and cracks on the roofs.
There seems to be no reason why some roofs are more popular with the birds than others.
Some homeowners have put fake owls on top of their homes. But while the faux owl seems to work on one house, the owl looks over a mess of pigeon poop on another.
Jim Hacker put a lawn sprinkler connected to a motion sensor on his roof to repel the pigeons.
"Some people shoot them, some poison them or trap them," Hacker, 50, said. So far, the sprinkler he put on the roof of his Bright Dawn Avenue home seems to be working.
"We get a few dead ones. And sometimes there will be 10 or 20 on the roof and I'll throw rocks at them or turn the sprinkler on," he said.
Donna Bradford said the solution to her pigeon problem was a gel called Hot Foot, which looks like little clear drops put on the roof shingles.
"That stuff's amazing," Bradford said. "When the pigeons step on it they fall off. I guess it's hot for them. They learn to stay away."
The Hot Foot works for about two years, and then has to be applied again, she said. Each application, which they do themselves, costs about $115 for the product.
When Bradford, 54, and her husband moved into the home on Summer Night Street three years ago, pigeons and pigeon droppings covered the roof, she said.
"The roof was coated. Our house was the worst in 2000," she said.
Before buying the house, Bradford said they asked about the smell from the nearby farm, and some neighbors said they would get used to it.
But she didn't even consider there might be a pigeon problem.
"It just didn't register with us," she said.
Denton, 43, said she too didn't think birds would be a problem when she and her husband moved into the neighborhood seven years ago.
"The smell I knew was there," Denton said about the sometimes pungent odor that wafts into the neighborhood from the farm. "But the birds. If I knew it was that bad I would have moved down the street."
While some homes throughout the neighborhood show some signs of pigeons passing by, the pigeons are more prevalent at the homes just a few doors or street or two closer to Ann Road, which runs between the farm and the neighborhood.
Denton said the pigeon problem has gotten progressively worse since every year since she moved in.
Every year she and her husband use a high-pressure hose to wash off their roof. The cleaning works for a little while, but eventually the birds return.
"If you clean the roofs they won't come for a while," she said. "They'll go where they see their markings, the droppings. They see a safe haven."
Penny Imberger, assistant manager of Silver State Exterminators, said her company would use a combination of poison and spikes to move pigeons from someone's property. However, she said that while the pigeons could be bothered away from one house, there really isn't any way to move them out of an entire neighborhood.
Combs, whose farm normally has about 6,000 pigs in addition to as many as 500 cows, said he's sorry his neighbors' homes have been sullied by the pigeons, but that might be just part of living next to a farm.
Combs, 64, said ever since he took over the farm 40 years ago, birds have flocked around the animals. The birds scavenge the scraps of food fed to the animals, who eat the leftovers from Strip hotels.
Combs has primarily faced complaints from neighbors about the smell of his farm. He is now in the midst of making some changes at the farm that were ordered by Clark County and are intended to lessen the smells coming from the farm.
As far as he can remember, Combs said he hasn't heard any bird-related complaints.
"I feel sorry about it because the birds poop on their roofs," Combs said. "But you have those problems next to a farm."