More backyard chickens might be in Maplewood's future.
After hearing from the three families who participated in the township's pilot chicken raising program, the Township Committee agreed at its Dec. 18 meeting to consider a new ordinance that would expand the program to include (potentially) more participants, more chickens per household, and larger coops.
The committee will vote on the new ordinance at its next regular meeting on Jan. 15. The pilot program will expire at the end of February.
Fred Profeta, who spearheaded the initiative, said he had inquiries from municipalities all over the county who wanted to set up their own program. He suggested that the township raise the number of hens to five per family to produce more eggs; allow the construction of larger coops (double the size at 36 square feet), and raise the number of participants to 10 per neighborhood.
Scott Thomas from Hillcrest Road passed around brightly colored eggs from his three hens to the committee members. The experience "was better than I imagined," said Thomas, who noted that during Hurricane Sandy, all of his neighbors had fresh eggs.
Risa Solomon, who lives near Clinton School, said that her family had a positive experience with their three hens. Schoolchildren had come by and visited with the chickens, and she had been approached by a West Orange resident interested in keeping chickens.
Solomon asked the committee to consider allowing the hens to freely roam within movable pasture fences.
Brian Anderson, who lives in the Vauxhall House on Valley Street, said he and his family had their first egg on Thanksgiving. "It was absolutely delicious," he said. Tuscan 5th graders will soon visit the coop for a field trip.
Health Officer Robert Roe said there had been no issues with insects or noise and as long as participants were "scrupulous" in keeping coops clean, he didn't think it would be a problem to increase the numbers.
India Larrier, who had initially been opposed to the program, said "After visiting the chickens, my mind was changed." However, she did not want to increase the numbers.
"I was opposed to this and it turns out my fears were unfounded," said Jerry Ryan. He said moderate expansion would be all right.
After further discussion, the committee agreed to consider an ordinance to allow up to 15 households to participate (the pilot also allowed 15, but only three families signed up) who can each have up to five chickens, let coop sizes increase, and allow chickens to roam.