Will feathers fly in the great Chicken War of Elmhurst? Or, will the chicken contingent get what it wants without too much squawking? What will happen to Elmhurst if residents are allowed to own and raise chickens in their back yards?
From Pennsylvania to Florida, from Minnesota to Virginia, there seems to be a national movement afoot to persuade cities to pass ordinances allowing residents to raise chickens in their urban landscapes.
And Elmhurst is no exception. Currently, Elmhurst's Municipal Code Chapter 13.21(p) prohibits residents from keeping a "stable, poultry yard or other place for the housing of any farm animal." (Apparently, you can be grandfathered in to owning a pot bellied pig, however.)
Elmhurst resident Sarah Makinney via Change.org has started a petition that asks the Elmhurst City Council to "Allow residents to have a small number of hens within city limits." She is circulating it on Facebook, among other places. As of Thursday afternoon, 34 Elmhurst residents had signed it; 2,000 signatures is the goal.
The petition states:
"We, the undersigned citizens of Elmhurst, IL, believe that chickens belong within the city limits. City ordinance must be changed to allow a small number of hens in our urban back yards for the following reasons:
- Rich fertilizer byproduct increases garden health
- Helps control pests and weeds (they love Japanese beetles!)
- Educates children about food sources
- Increases local food security by providing delicious and nutritious fresh eggs
- Waste reduction (table scraps and garden waste can be fed to chickens)
- Increases self-sufficiency and inter-dependency within our community
- A properly cleaned and maintained chicken coop is no threat to sanitation
By allowing chickens within the city limits, the City of Elmhurst will encourage stewardship of the urban landscape and food production on a household scale."
Makinney is not the only Elmhurst resident interested in this movement. A number of residents have contacted city aldermen and gotten the ball rolling. On Sept. 4, the City Council referred the matter to the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee for discussion. It was originally brought before the council by 3rd Ward Alderman Dannee Polomsky, and 2nd Ward aldermen Bob Dunn and Norman Leader.
"In response to residents' requests, we are asking that the City Council consider an ordinance to permit chickens in residential areas," they wrote in a memo to the council. "Other communities successfully regulate the number of chickens permitted and/or prohibit roosters for the purpose of preventing disturbance to neighbors."
Sounds simple. But even though chickens are almost always good for a laugh, history has shown that some people get pretty agitated over the idea of sharing the block with them. The most common concerns are over noise, waste, odor and disease, and rodents being attracted to chicken feed. Check out part of the debate in Batavia last year.
These worries, proponents say, could also be applied to dogs, however, and no one would think of banning them.
Eventually, Batavia did adopt a chicken ordinance, but only after many hours of public comment. And the vote was split—not an overwhelming endorsement, by any measure.
In Plainfield, it looks like residents may soon be able to enjoy farm fresh eggs from their own back yards. Other towns that allow the birds include Evanston, Naperville, Oak Park and the City of Chicago.
Are chickens already here? If they are, it's on the down low. Occasionally, one can be seen at the Spring Road Pet Parade, but it's usually disguised in a suit.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The matter did not make it onto either of the September DPZ Committee meeting agendas. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8, but the agenda has not yet been posted.
We'll let you know how it all plays out. In the meantime, it's never too early to start thinking of names.