Wauconda officials drafting rules to allow backyard hens
Moved by public demand, Wauconda village officials are preparing rules for residents who want to keep chickens in their backyards.
Wauconda's current ordinances don't specifically address chickens, so officials treat the birds as livestock and restrict them to areas zoned for agricultural uses.
But the issue has arisen here and in other towns because of suburbanites who want to raise chickens for their eggs.
"(It) seems to be a natural outgrowth of the locavore movement," said Trustee Tim Howe, leader of the village board's license and administration committee. "More and more people want to exercise greater control over the source of the food they feed their families, and this is a terrific way to do it."
The decision to develop a new ordinance followed a discussion of the issue Tuesday by Howe's committee that involved proponents of the hobby.
The group reviewed the regulations enacted in nearby communities that allow hens at home, including Grayslake and Volo. A larger-than-usual crowd attended the meeting, and no one in the audience objected to the concept, Howe said.
He expects Wauconda's rules will resemble those in the other towns. For example, no roosters would be permitted, he said. Roosters aren't needed for egg production, the main reason why people keep chickens in their backyards.
Additionally, the number of hens would be limited based on the size of the yard. Most would qualify for four hens, Howe said. Many yards wouldn't have the necessary space to accommodate the birds and their coops, he said.
A permit application fee, annual inspections and compliance with a state agricultural registration program are likely, Howe said.
A draft ordinance could be ready at the committee's Sept. 20 meeting, he said.
Among the residents at Tuesday's meeting was Jennifer Heidle, who said chickens might make good pets for her allergy-prone daughter, Ariana Hatfield.
Michael Prate also attended the meeting and said he plans to set up a coop at his house -- but for a very different reason.
"If you've ever had a fresh egg, that day or the next day, you'd get your own chickens," Prate said.
Howe appreciated the enthusiasm for the hobby but urged caution.
"I wonder if everyone who's excited about it now realizes the work involved in doing it properly," he said.
Howe said he hopes people familiar with raising chickens will step up and "act as ambassadors" to help newcomers.