Chicken Coop Idea May Not Fly in Skokie
Some residents express interest in raising poultry in light of Evanston lifting ban last year.
It was a question that even Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen conceded he could not quite find the right words to answer.
At a forum sponsored by the community organization Skokie Voice last February, Dennis Clarke asked if the village would allow him to raise chickens in his backyard.
As Clarke stood waiting for the mayor's answer, audible laughter was heard among the crowd of about 200 people gathered at the Oakton Community Center.
Mayor Van Dusen was visibly surprised at the question, acknowledging to Clarke that it was first time he had been confronted with such a query. He said the village currently prohibits residents from raising livestock including chickens.
Clarke, a resident of Skokie for the last 10 years, promptly retreated to his seat at the back of the room.
Following the question, another Skokie resident and teacher Cathi White approached Skokie Patch saying she supports Clarke's idea.
As advocates of sustainable food production and local agriculture are making their voices heard, the question of raising chickens in backyards in urban areas has been brought to the forefront in many communities.
With the advent of spring, when households are busy with outdoor gardening and backyard activities, the issue takes on greater importance.
In Chicago, residents can have unlimited number of chickens as pets or for eggs production--but not for slaughter. Even roosters, which are deemed noisier because they will crow at any time of the day, are allowed in private properties.
On Sept. 28, 2010, Skokie's next-door neighbor Evanston passed a resolution allowing residents to keep as many as six hens in a backyard coops, overturning a ban that dated to 1974.
In Lombard, the village trustees overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal in December. Elsewhere, St. Charles prohibits chicken coops, while Oak Park and Naperville allow them.
Does Skokie specifically prohibits the keeping of livestock in residential areas?
Below is the village's code pertaining to that question: Chapter 18 Sec. 18-7 reads: "Keeping livestock. No person shall keep, or suffer to be kept, any cattle, goats, horses, swine, poultry or other livestock in the Village."
Bruce A. Jones, environmental health supervisor for the Skokie Health Department, told Skokie Patch that there was no current proposal to change that rule.
"I can't speak obviously for the mayor or the board of trustees here in Skokie, but I know just with some other concerns that we might have here, as far as how they would be kept and fed," Jones said. "Right now, I don't think Skokie is looking to actively change the code."
Jones also pointed out that there are also concerns that backyard farming could contribute to "potential nuisances" among neighbors in Skokie who live in such close quarters. He added that chicken waste could also attract nighttime wildlife and rodents.
The health supervisor also pointed out that "a fairly small number" of Skokie residents requested information from his office regarding the possibility of putting up a chicken coop, which he said is "more suitable for rural areas."
"My personal thought is that with Skokie fairly urbanized demographics, that it's probably not something that I would think would necessarily be a good thing overall," Jones added.
In Evanston, Carl Caneva, division manager for the city's health department, said that ever since the ordinance was passed in September, there had been no incidence reported in connection with the chicken coops.
"My understanding is that so far it's very successful," Caneva said, adding that so far only five residents have applied for a permit.
The Evanston ordinance requires those who keep chickens to pay a $50 license fee and keep the chickens under sanitary conditions in an enclosed coop. Residents are also required to inform their neighbors if they want to keep the chickens. Unlike Chicago, no roosters are allowed in Evanston.
For the first 12 months of the ordinance, Evanston has limited the number of permits to 20. After a year, once it has been determined that no complaints or issues are raised, the limit will be lifted and any Evanston resident can apply for a permit.
A yearly inspection is also conducted every time a permit is renewed or at any time when complaints are raised.
But the Evanston ordinance did not pass without controversy.
Following the passage, a commenter who identified herself as Gladys Kravitz complained on the website Evanstonnow.com, "Just what we need, more things in peoples yards that they don't take care of. You want fresh eggs, move to a farm in DeKalb!"
Kravitz said that she is afraid Evanston residents "with their asinine idea of raising chickens" will drive down real estate values.
But Caneva thought otherwise. "Those people [who] have permits have passed all inspections and have complied [with the rules], and we've heard of no complaints about any of our permit holders."
Chuck Scordato, owner of EZ Clean Coops, raises chickens at his farm in the far northwestern suburb of Kingston. He told Skokie Patch that interest in chicken coops have picked up in recent years.
"Well, chicken coops are getting quite common. With people wanting to raise their own eggs, and see where the foods coming from. It [is] getting quite common," Scordato said, adding that the chicken coops he designs are "very easy to take care of."
"The whole back of the coop opens up. There's a litter tray so all the droppings are going to the litter tray. So it's easy to clean it out," he explained at this year's Chicago Flower and Garden Show.
"Many people want chickens, but they don't realize how easy it is, for them to take care of," Scordato added.