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updated: 4/25/2014 8:47 PM

Elgin will consider allowing chickens

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The Elgin City Council will consider, possibly by June, whether to allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

The city's sustainability commission unanimously recommended April 8 that the city council allow the practice on residential properties, after a request by resident Christina Aagesen.

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Aagesen also spoke at the city council meeting on Wednesday, saying she represents "a small but pretty impassioned and growing number of individuals."

Keeping chickens can be regulated to ensure it's a responsible operation; for example, requiring a minimum square footage per chicken, she said.

Also, residents could be required to get educated about chickens and register their chickens, she said.

"I would like to see the city be open to the idea that we (residents) are adult enough to handle it," she said. "We just want the right to be able to do it."

Sustainability commission member Mitch Jacobs agreed.

"I see this more of an issue of people being able to raise their own food and getting eggs fresh from the chickens," he said. "It's self-evident to me to allow people to do that, as long as there are proper restrictions."

The commission recommended limiting the number of chickens to six and not allowing roosters, he said.

"I think there's a lot of false information, like people have chickens in the house," he said. "Also, there are people that read about cockfights. But if you're not having any roosters, you can't have any cockfights."

Aagesen said there is no evidence that mobile chicken coops lower property values. Those coops -- available at stores like Costco and Sam's Club -- even can be pleasing to the eye, she said.

"They are pretty attractive, cool-looking, not some ugly little shanty," she said.

Councilman John Steffen said he agrees with the concept of allowing chickens in Elgin, but wants to see the proposed ordinance's details before deciding.

"I think it's time to see if the community is ready to consider this," Steffen said.

"I like how (Aagesen) has done research. She's dug up other ordinances and research, and the problems that other communities have identified, and she's come up with solutions."

Aagesen created a Facebook page called "Elgin Pollos Hermanas," named after a chicken restaurant in the TV series "Breaking Bad." It has 109 "likes."

She became interested in keeping chickens partly through her work as chef/manager for Michael's on Main Cafe near O'Hare International Airport, she said.

"I see where our industry is at, and I don't agree with the commercialization and industrialization of our food process," she said. "Chickens, especially, are treated really terribly."

Suburbs that allow chickens include Batavia, West Dundee, Deerfield and Evanston. On the other hand, Arlington Heights and Libertyville rejected the animals last year.

Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall said city staff members are looking into the issue, which will be placed on the agenda at a city council's committee of the whole meeting, possibly in June.

"The idea of chickens being allowed in backyards is something that requires a lot of education and understanding, because on the surface it certainly could seem concerning," he said.

Still, the practice "has worked out fairly well" in communities that allow it, Stegall said.

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