Wheaton council decides not to allow for backyard chickens

Despite a request from a family that owns chickens, the Wheaton City Council will not change its code to allow residents to keep the birds in their backyards - at least for now.

City code states that livestock or similar animals are allowed in the city for a maximum of 90 days, but only for 4-H or similar educational projects.

Proponents say chickens provide a good learning experience for kids and provide fresh eggs for families. They argue that hens are not noisy and several chickens produce less waste than a large dog.

But arguments against chickens that city staff members found when reviewing meeting minutes from other communities included noise, health risks, waste and the possibility of future requests from residents wanting to own other livestock, such as sheep or goats.

Staff presented the council with a list of 11 communities that allow chickens. Their restrictions vary greatly, from a 10-foot setback from all property lines in Bensenville to a minimum 10-acre requirement in Oak Brook.

Councilman Todd Scalzo said he doesn't mind allowing chickens, mostly because he thinks few residents would want them.

"I think there's a handful of people that are into this," he said. "The ones that are, tend to be conscious about how they handle them."

Councilwoman Suzanne Fitch agreed, but said she would like to see a lot of restrictions, especially with the number of chickens allowed and setback requirements.

The only councilman firmly against the idea was Phil Suess. Although noisy roosters are typically banned in communities that allow chickens, Suess said he was concerned about the noise hens could make.

"I've asked just informally among friends, neighbors, and people are adamant in saying no," he said. "If it wasn't an imposition on somebody else, fine. I think the noise is an imposition."

Mayor Michael Gresk and councilmen John Prendiville and John Rutledge said they supported the city staff's recommendation to maintain the current policy.

"I'm ambivalent, but I don't see a groundswell of support," Gresk said.

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