Hat, Treetop, Aunt Ruthie and Aunt Mimi are not your typical pets.
And the animals, owned by Laurence and Sonya Chamberlain of Brainerd, were one vote away from not being invited into the city.
The pets the Chamberlains are referring to are chickens. The Chamberlain household is the only one in Brainerd thus far to take advantage of the city's animal control ordinance that was amended in October to allow residents the option of owning up to four chickens.
The Brainerd City Council voted 4-3 to approve the amendment after hearing from a handful of residents who spoke in favor of and against urban chicken living.
Sonya Chamberlain was the resident who approached the city about allowing chickens on her property and when the amendment passed her family built a chicken coop and then purchased four chicks in the spring.
"We're happy with how things have been going (with the chickens)," said Chamberlain. "We haven't had any issues. Part of the ordinance was to have neighborhood approval and my two neighbors signed it. I wasn't a big fan of this (stipulation in the ordinance) but I know it made people more at ease."
Chamberlain shared her research on urban chickens when the city was revising its animal ordinance.
"I was the ringleader," said Chamberlain. "I have friends in other cities that allow chickens and several friends here who were supportive of it ... I became known as the chicken lady by people."
According to urbanchickens.org, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth also allow residents to own chickens. Chamberlain said there are nearly 100 cities that allow chickens.
Chamberlain said in her research the primary concerns of cities allowing residents to own chickens were noise, smell, property value issues and enforcement. Chamberlain said once the ordinances were in place she found out that there were few complaints about chickens. One city she said was more concerned about poisonous snakes and another city had a lot of calls about roosters being loud.
"A lot of cities said no to roosters because of that reason," said Chamberlain. "We can't have roosters in Brainerd, which is fine."
Chamberlain wanted to get chickens at her home for egg consumption only. Her chickens began laying eggs in mid-August. Chamberlain said chickens begin laying eggs when they are 4 to 5 months old and her chickens are laying about two eggs a day, sometimes three. She said when the chickens become more mature they should lay between three to four eggs a day.
Chamberlain said she has not had any complaints about her chickens.
Dan Vogt, Brainerd city administrator, said he has not heard of any complaints about the Chamberlains' chickens either.
"It's been a non-issue," Vogt said. "I thought we might have a few more people coming in to get permits to have chickens after seeing the interest (at the public hearing) but there hasn't been anybody, (except the Chamberlains)."
Vogt said the city has received several inquiries about the ordinance from other cities looking at the issue.
Only four hen chickens are allowed per residence; roosters are not allowed in the city; chickens count toward the total number of pets allowed - four per residence - under the city's ordinance, meaning someone with a cat and dog would only be allowed to have two chickens; and chickens must be kept in a coop or run in a backyard at least 25 feet away from the dwelling or other premises on adjacent lots.
Chamberlain follows the ordinance stipulations and makes sure the chicken coop is clean and well-maintained. Chamberlain said taking care of chickens is easier than taking care of cats and dogs. Chamberlain compared taking care of chickens to taking care of gerbils or hamsters.
Chamberlain feeds the chickens organic feed. She said the chickens also get treats that she or her two young children give to the chickens, like worms, bugs and grass clippings.
"The kids love the chickens," said Chamberlain. "My daughter likes to sit in the coop and have them sit on her lap."
Chamberlain said a lot of her neighbors have talked about getting chickens but are waiting to see how she copes with the management of the chickens so they can learn from her experience.
The city of Baxter does not have an ordinance that specifically deals with chickens. However, Bill Deblon, Baxter community development director, said chickens would be considered a small domestic animal and would fall under a zoning ordinance addressing low-density residential property regarding accessory uses.
Residents can have chickens as long as the chickens and the enclosed pen are a minimum of 100 feet from the nearest residence.
Deblon said he does not know of any Baxter residents who own chickens.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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