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updated: 10/27/2010 4:12 PM

Lombard group wants to raise backyard chickens

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Emily Prasad has never seen a live chicken in Lombard.

But she's pushing for a change to a village ordinance that would allow her and others to keep up to eight chickens in their backyards as a source of food.

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"I'm a mom and I'm concerned about giving my family the most healthy, the most humane, the best foods that are available for them," Prasad said. "For me, it's something that is just a next step past having a big garden out back and being a careful grocery shopper."

Prasad is the leader of a group called Citizens of Lombard for Urban Chickens, or CLUC, that made a presentation Tuesday to the environmental concerns committee of the village board in favor of backyard chickens.

"We were just trying to think about what we feel the benefits are to backyard chickens as well as try to anticipate the concerns people often have about the idea," Prasad said. "Because it's something that would be new for Lombard, we're concerned about making sure that people feel comfortable with the idea."

Committee members had some questions about noise, diseases and predators, but left the meeting ready to forward the issue to village staff for more consideration, said Dana Moreau, committee chairwoman and a Lombard trustee.

"I'm a big fan of chickens, assuming that we put a limit on the number and really think about all the specifics that go along with having chickens," Moreau said.

While some may worry that chickens will attract predatory animals such as coyotes and foxes, Lee Stahl, a Lombard resident who is a bird keeper at Brookfield Zoo, said those animals already roam the suburbs.

"We already have coyotes in the neighborhood; I see them periodically," Stahl said. "Having a small group of chickens is not going to bring any more (predators) in. They're already here, and there are chicken coops that you can build that are predator-proof."

Stahl said common-sense hygienic measures, such as hand washing, prevent the spread of diseases from chickens to humans just as effectively as they do from dogs or cats to humans.

"I generally think it is a good idea and I think our village needs to consider amending our zoning ordinance to permit the appropriate keeping of chickens," Jason Cooper, environmental concerns committee member, said. "Local food is such a hot topic right now, and trying to find ways for urban communities to have access to food grown locally."

Backyard chickens already are legal in Chicago, Downers Grove and Warrenville, according to research the group presented to the environmental concerns committee. The village of Oak Park has allowed up to two fowl in backyards since 2004, David Powers, village spokesman, said. And West Dundee trustees voted in early October to allow up to four chickens with a chicken-owners license, pending approval from the village's planning and zoning commission.

Suburbanites who are interested in raising backyard chickens for their eggs can read about the subject online or in magazines or books, Prasad said. Some members of Citizens of Lombard for Urban Chickens plan to attend a Nov. 6 course in Chicago to learn the basics of chicken-keeping, she added.

The course is taught by Oak Park resident Jennifer Murtoff for Angelic Organics, a Chicago community-supported agriculture group. It aims to "educate people who want to keep chickens because we believe educated chicken keepers will do better with keeping city councils happy and with keeping neighbors happy."

Proposed changes to Lombard's prohibited animals ordinance would allow up to eight domestic poultry to be housed in predator-proof coops in residential areas. Cooper said village staff, the environmental concerns committee and the plan commission still need to consider the number and weight of chickens and whether slaughtering them will be allowed before changing the ordinance.

Backyard chickens will next be discussed at the environmental concerns committee meeting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23.

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