Maplewood resident Bob Harsh went out to his backyard every day during the winter to check on his pets’ water supply. He would pick them up and hold them against his Dickies jacket to keep them warm.
Harsh has four hens, who have the run of a fenced part of his yard, a wooden coop with a light bulb for warmth, and a Little Tikes playhouse, converted for their use.
“They’re just affectionate little pets, like a cat or a dog,” Harsh said. He got the chickens mostly for his 2-year-old grandson to play with.
Sam Rainwater and her family became interested in chickens when Bob Scheidt, at , showed her daughters and nieces some chicks he had in his shop. Some neighbors had chickens in their backyard, so her husband started thinking about coop designs. One day, unexpectedly, Scheidt called her and told her to come get her chicks. She and the four girls went and picked them up.
“We’ve had an absolutely lovely time with them. The girls got to raise them from chicks, and named them, and when they were little we picked them up, then the girls let them sit on their arms or shoulder,” Rainwater said. “We’ve become kind of the neighborhood petting zoo.”
When the chickens were laying, the Rainwaters had four different-colored eggs a day. They’re now down to two hens that don’t lay anymore, so they’re just kept as pets. When these chickens are gone, she said, they’ll start all over.
In 2009, the Maplewood City Council voted to allow residents to keep up to six chickens, but no roosters, on their property. Ward 3 Councilman Shawn Faulkingham brought it up. He and his wife had kept chickens before they moved to Maplewood and he was aware of others in the area who were interested. Prior to the 2009 ordinance, keeping chickens was not allowed in Maplewood.
“The whole backyard chicken thing has really taken off,” Faulkingham said. “People were worried about roosters, which is kind of funny, because one of the biggest problems we have with animals is with dogs and their barking. Roosters really aren’t your big concern in terms of noise.”
The council voted on the bill in June 2009. Mayor James White and Ward 3 Councilman Barry Greenberg both voted against it.
Greenberg said he wished the ordinance did more to protect neighbors of chicken-owners.
"It’s a little bit too chicken-friendly," he said. "I would have preferred to see a little bit stricter version of it."
He wanted to identify a distance between chicken coops and property lines in the ordinance and had concerns about noise and smell.
But Greenberg said he likes how environmentally friendly chickens are.
That's one reason Faulkingham keeps his chickens.
“I use the manure from them, and put it in my garden. And they provide eggs. They’re probably one of the greenest animals around,” he said. “Chickens have been around for thousands of years, helping man feed himself."
More than a dozen families in Maplewood now keep chickens. To get started, all you need to do is visit and add your name to the list. There’s no fee.
You’ll get a copy of the ordinance, and city hall will have your address, so they can keep track of where the chickens are. Chickens are not allowed in Brentwood.