Proponents of raising chickens in their Brookfield backyards are crowing after village trustees on Monday night voted unanimously to allow residents to raise up to three hens on their properties.
According to the new ordinance a trio of hens is allowed on each zoning lot. Roosters are prohibited by the law. In addition, the law does not allow geese, ducks, turkeys or any other livestock to be raised within the village.
The law also specifically states that any structures built to keep hens must conform to the village’s building and zoning codes.
“It feels good,” said Brookfield resident Allison Muscolino, who raises hens in her backyard in a red clapboard coop. “It’s great they have entrusted people to take responsibility for their properties. It now falls on people to be neighborly and take care of their pets.”
Alana Waters-Piper, the Brookfield resident who pushed the hen issue into the limelight in July, was also thrilled at the vote.
“I’ve always felt that government at any level feels out of your reach,” said Waters-Piper. “To feel you’ve made a reasonable request and have them hear you, that is thrilling.”
In July, Waters-Piper pushed the matter by openly calling for backyard hens to be allowed and inviting the Landmark to see the coop she had put in her backyard.
Days after a news article about Waters-Piper, her hens were found dead. But residents rallied to her cause at a pair of village board meetings, and at those meetings there was clear support for the measure.
The new law simply lays out what birds are allowed and states that coops have to conform to building and zoning laws. Permits are not required in order to keep hens, and it appears that any enforcement of the new law will be driven by complaints from neighbors.
According to Keith Sbiral, assistant village manager and Brookfield’s building director, a simpler law was more desirable.
Since the push to allow hens started this summer, Sbiral said he’s run into Brookfield residents raising other game fowl and even one property owner who kept a rooster.
“We’ll do our best,” said Sbiral. “I mean, that’s about all I can say. In the time from the last meeting to now, I’ve had a situation where I’ve had a resident who had ducks and quail, and those are clearly forbidden. I’ve seen some pictures floating around of accessory structures in the setbacks. Those would be situations where, certainly upon a complaint, the structure would have to be relocated to meet zoning.
“I think this is the best you can do to allow chickens without massively writing a big ordinance that’s very detailed,” he added. “I’d like to keep the ordinance to a minimum amount of new regulations, because all the new regulation is just a way [for neighbors to go after one another].”
One surprise vote of support came from Trustee Michael Towner, who previously argued against allowing hens and whose wife had objected to Waters-Piper’s hens this summer. While he still had reservations, he went along with his colleagues.
“There are some setups in town … that are probably not the norm, but are very nice,” said Towner, “and I hate to punish some folks for how some other setups may be or may become.”
Village President Michael Garvey urged supporting the new law.
“I say we pass the ordinance and let staff do their job,” Garvey said. “This isn’t a big change in what’s been happening in the village of Brookfield right now.”