The Brookfield village board appears poised to allow residents to raise chickens – hens that is – in Brookfield. That appeared to be the consensus position after a discussion of the issue at the board’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 12.
Trustees and President Michael Garvey directed staff to write an ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to three hens on their property. Male chickens, commonly known as roosters, would be prohibited.
Backyard chickens emerged as an issue in Brookfield during the summer. Alana Waters-Piper’s backyard brood of three hens was profiled in the Landmark in July, and the village board was set to decide whether chickens are allowed under Brookfield’s current ordinance.
But before the village board could discuss the issue Waters-Piper’s chickens suddenly died, with some suggesting foul play.
The board is expected to vote on the new ordinance at its Oct. 10 meeting.
Waters-Piper said that she is thrilled that the village board appears likely to allow backyard chickens.
“I think that’s great,” Waters-Pipers said. “I think that, if this goes through, it’s proof that with compassion and a focused goal that really is for the benefit of the community, that people on opposing sides can hear each other and understand each other and learn a new way of thinking. I feel really good about living in Brookfield.”
About 50 people, mostly supporting backyard chickens, attended an Aug. 8 committee of the whole meeting where three trustees then appeared to express support for allowing backyard chickens.
At the Sept. 12 meeting, which was sparsely attended, other trustees also seemed ready to support allowing backyard chickens, provided they were tightly regulated.
“We need to decide what regulations we’re going to have if we’re going to allow this,” said Trustee C.P. Hall.
Hall said that he was concerned chickens would attract foxes and coyotes from the forest preserves hunting for dinner.
“I feel that chickens can’t run wild,” Hall said. “If you’re going to keep chickens, your yard needs to be fenced.”
Michael Towner, who in August opposed allowing backyard chickens, said that strict code enforcement is key.
“We have to start getting on these folks that aren’t keeping up their property that we know about and get complaints about,” Towner said.
Kit Ketchmark seemed a bit skeptical, but said that he was impressed by the chicken coop of resident Scott Sanders.
“The pictures that we saw, particularly the house on Madison [Avenue], it looked like a tremendous set up,” Ketchmark said. “I have a hard time envisioning that being the typical setup for chickens. If this is something we’re going to allow, we have to make sure we don’t make the situation worse.”
The ordinance will likely allow only three hens per household and will prohibit the composting of chicken manure.
Sanders, who currently has four hens, thinks that composting of chicken manure is not dangerous and should be permitted.
“There is, in my opinion, an unfounded concern about bacterial contamination with chicken poop, but that’s only typically found with meat-eating animals like cats or dogs,” Sanders said. “Chickens are mostly vegetarian, and there wouldn’t be potential contact with bacteria.”
Waters-Piper was dismayed that composting would apparently be prohibited.
“I think that’s out of bounds to tell people that they can’t compost,” Waters-Piper said. “It kind of defeats the purpose.”
Sanders admits that that hens sometimes can be noisy.
“Hens still cluck,” Sanders said. “They make noise if they’re not cared for well and they certainly make noise if they’re laying an egg.”
Tricia Tomczyk, a neighbor of Waters-Piper, still has concerns about backyard chickens.
“I’ve heard it can be a benefit and it can be a pleasing experience for the chicken owner and the chicken owner’s neighbors,” Tomczyk said. “Unfortunately that has not been the experience I have encountered, so I just want the village to protect me as a resident and create an ordinance that will do what it is supposed to do.”
Garvey said that the chicken issue has generated a lot of interest and attendance at board meetings, but affects relatively few people. He is anxious to resolve the issue and move on.
“We’re going to come up with something reasonable and move on from there,” Garvey said.