Naperville resident David Laird's chickens are about to have a little more leg room in their backyard coop. He's already cut his number from 20 chickens to 12, but he likely won't get to stop there.
Council members directed the city's staff to prepare an ordinance limiting the number of permitted fowl to eight, requiring a 30-foot separation between a chicken coop and a neighbor's house, and banning roosters.
In October, council members opted not to limit or otherwise regulate the number of chickens residents can house. But Councilman Paul Hinterlong was absent at that meeting and asked to revisit the issue Tuesday night.
At that October meeting, city staff members proposed changes to local laws that would have instituted an $80 permit process, required screening or landscaping to hide chicken coops, and changed the original language to require the coops be clean at all times. Those rules are also likely to end up in the forthcoming ordinance.
Laird pleaded with council members not to change the rules but council members were sympathetic to the neighbors on both sides of Laird's Rivanna Court residence, each of whom sought an all-out ban on the birds.
Laird said his 20, now 12, chickens began as a five-chicken 4-H project for his son and grew from there within the past three years. He now gets six eggs a day from his coop and the chickens each have names.
Susan Borghesi and her husband Ronald have lived in their home since 1976 and are two of a few remaining original homeowners in the subdivision.
"We planted every tree, plant and bush on our property. Through it we've adjusted to change. It is the way life is- ever changing," she said. "But we never thought we'd be dealing with chicken-keeping right next to our home. This is no longer a small farming community."
Laird's neighbor on the other side, Dennis Groenenboom, said he has smelled Laird's chickens and is concerned about predators the chickens could be attracting.
"We don't believe chickens should be allowed because of the noise and odor, among other things," he said. "The pen is a magnet for potential sanitary and health problems. And I don't know how wily a coyote is but I believe they're also attracted."
Councilman Bob Fieseler was one of several sympathetic ears to the neighbors.
"All of a sudden you are faced with agricultural activity," he said. "I can't imagine what you're going through."
Councilman Doug Krause, however, was afraid the council was micromanaging too much for an issue that generates "one or two complaints a year."
In the end, Krause, Grant Wehrli and Kenn Miller opposed drafting a new ordinance.
Following the meeting, Laird and his wife Brenda said they were disappointed but hoped the new ordinance would "grandfather" them in.
"We'll do what we have to do," he said.
The Borghesis and Groenenbooms declined to comment after the meeting.