A one-year pilot program allowing up to 15 residents to keep hens -- but no roosters -- in the backyards of single-family homes could be headed to Elgin.
The Elgin City Council's special committee voted 6-3 Wednesday in favor of the program, which would take effect in 2015 after formal approval by the council.
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Council members Rich Dunn, Terry Gavin and John Prigge voted against the measure.
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said she liked the idea of a trial run.
"Some people see this as pets. Some people see this as a learning experience for their children. Some people would like to have control over their food systems," she said.
Residents will be responsible enough to keep their chickens in a manner that is respectful to their neighbors, Councilwoman Rose Martinez said.
Councilwoman Tish Powell agreed.
"The regulations are restrictive enough that only those people that are serious and responsible will pursue raising chickens, " she said, adding many homeowners associations will ban the practice.
Under the proposed ordinance, no more than four chickens would be allowed per home. They would have to be kept in coops within enclosed pen areas.
Residents will need a to pay a one-time, $65 building permit for the coops, which would have to be at least 25 feet from neighboring residential structures. Coops could be up to 50 feet and pen areas up to 100 feet.
Currently, there is a $50 to $750 daily fine for keeping farm animals on residential properties. Only certified poultry raisers can slaughter chickens, Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said.
The pros and cons of allowing backyard chickens "are pretty even," Prigge said.
"I know in my heart that the public does not want farm animals to be kept in the city," he said.
Councilman Toby Shaw called it "a property rights issue at the most basic level."
"I think sharing a dozen eggs with a neighbor once in a while will go a long way to make folks happy," he said.
Residents would be issued permits on a first-come, first-serve basis.
At least 14 suburbs allow backyard chickens, including Batavia, Naperville, West Dundee, Bartlett, Libertyville and Warrenville. The animals are typically required to stay inside unless supervised.