Santa Rosa may end ban on backyard chickens

Anyone wondering where famed San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson has been hiding out while on the disabled list should check Santa Rosa attorney Paul Miller's chicken coop.

He's got a Brian Wilson there. And an Elmo, a Henry and two other hens — Geo and Milli — all named by his 3-year-old son, who apparently overlooked that they're all female.

These chickens are more than egg layers to Miller's family of four, though their eggs — some a pale, green-blue — are much enjoyed.

They're family pets, playmates for Miller's young son and sidekicks to the family Lab, Emma.

"Aren't they pretty?" Miller asked, admiring his multi-colored flock as he served them table scraps and squirming, black soldier fly larvae. "And they all have different personalities."

Miller is among hundreds of city residents who have fueled a local boom in hen-keeping, reflecting a robust interest in homegrown foods and a recognition of hens as sociable companions.

The problem is that backyard chickens are illegal in most parts of the city.

Still, "People just can't get enough of them," said John "J.P." Pellham, poultry expert at Santa Rosa's Western Farm Center, which routinely sells out its supply of baby chicks and young chickens, called pullets.

Pellham said he sells 6,000 to 8,000 baby chicks a season, and last March sold all 700 or so chicks in his first shipment over a single weekend.

The 43 pullets that arrived at the Railroad Square-area store last Saturday sold within 48 hours, he said.

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