BRENTWOOD -- Brentwood resident Tammy Korolis had just one week to find a new home for her three beloved chickens or face fines from the city after the prohibited hens were reported.
For three years, the chickens had become part of the Korolis family as cherished pets. Surrounding neighbors expressed no concerns until a vacant foreclosed home next door was sold and a complaint was recently issued to the city of Brentwood. If Korolis failed to remove her chickens and endure a property inspection, she said that the city would have forced them to pay its lawyer fees.
Korolis doesn't understand why a Brentwood code bans chickens on residential lots less than 20,000 square feet in size when they are allowed in many neighboring East Bay communities. Meanwhile, an underground movement of young Brentwood families who are closeted chicken owners is growing.
"It is an education issue," said the nurse with a book on keeping chickens and a portrait of her former flock both in hand. "They think you need a rooster for eggs. These are just hens."
Korolis received support from the Brentwood Backyard Chickens group, which recently emerged as a popular Facebook page that is garnering community support from chicken owners and concerned residents alike. Through social media, group members have anonymity and can share how backyard chickens have provided fresh eggs for their families and compost for their gardens.
"It is a way to get them (children)
With an estimated 200 chicken owners in Brentwood, many of whom live in the golf course communities, "Rose" said that they plan to start an informal educational campaign and then bring this controversial issue back to the Brentwood City Council in the near future. The suburban chicken issue in Brentwood surfaced in 2008 when a resident inquired about the existing code and how many cities have relaxed their codes to allow residential chickens.
Although a City Council subcommittee was willing to alter the ordinance to lots of 6,000 square feet or larger, the Brentwood Planning Commission increased the proposed lot size to 10,000 square feet. After much public outcry and debate on both sides of the issue, the City Council decided not to revise the current code in a 3-2 vote, according to Community Development Director Casey McCann.
"Some proponents stated that there is ample evidence of no health hazards if manure is cleaned up regularly. There were a fair number of residents who said they didn't want to hear or smell them," McCann said. "Each side made compelling arguments."
"Rose" said that many local chicken owners didn't know that they were illegal on smaller lots until after purchasing them. She added that most chicken owners regularly clean and sanitize the coops.
McCann noted that the city's code enforcement department receives about six complaints annually regarding backyard chickens and they work to find alternative homes for the fowl.
"There are a lot of people who will support our right to own chickens," "Rose" said from her 6,400-square-foot home, where one hen just laid its first eggs and the garden is flourishing. "The reason that people were against this was a lack of education. We have to come together as a group to feel safe."
Contact staff writer Paula King at 925-779-7174 or email@example.com.