Maplewood family's therapy chickens run afoul of the law

Like a lot of families, the Blomquists of Maplewood have plenty of pets, but mixed in with the springer spaniels are nearly a dozen chickens. It is those chickens that have run the family afoul with the City of Maplewood.

“The chickens have taught our kids a lot of life lessons,” said Joe Blomquist. “It teaches our kids how to take care of animals.

The chickens are therapy chickens for 2 of their 4 children -- Sam, who has autism, and his sister Lizzie, who has a developmental disorder.

“The chickens have brought Sam out of his shell,” Blomquist said.

The kids’ father says the same about how Lizzie responds to the chickens.

“She's just a helper. She hugs them and makes her smile.”

Joe Blomquist says his family hatched the chickens back in 2013. He also built the chicken coop and run in their backyard before applying for a permit from the city to have the chickens – and that has brought the problems with the city.

In order to get a permit, Maplewood says the Blomquists have to get approval from all their immediate neighbors, but one won't sign off unless the family moves the coop away from their property something the Blomquists don't want to do.

“It was a lot of work, it weighs 1500 pounds. I don't know how to move it. The expense would be tremendous to our family to move it,” Joe Blomquist said.

Because the coop has gone unmoved, the city charged the Blomquists for having a chicken without a permit – a misdemeanor that carries the threat of up to 90 days in jail and a $700 fine.

The city says the charges aren’t about punishing the family, but rather trying to get everything up to code.  

“This is not about jail, this is not about fine. This is about compliance. This is a strategy ultimately we hope will get us to that point,” said Maplewood police chief Paul Schnell.

The Blomquists didn't intend for their chickens to cause a flap, but insist the city is the one causing the problem.

“Chickens don't hurt anyone. I think it’s ludicrous that we are going to court and spending taxpayer dollars to fight for our chickens.”