Rolling Meadows allows as many as 6 backyard hens
After months of deliberations, things turned out sunny-side up for supporters of chickens in Rolling Meadows, where residents will now be able to keep egg-laying hens in their backyards.
The city council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to permit the backyard birds on up to 25 single-family residential lots citywide. For an annual $25 city fee, homeowners will be able to have as many as six chickens -- hens, not roosters -- in backyard coops kept at least 10 feet away from lot lines.
The second reading ordinance vote followed three earlier council discussions on the topic since July. The ultimately successful lobbying effort of supporters of backyard chickens followed failed efforts -- in 2018 and 2014 -- by then-Alderman Rob Banger Jr. to persuade fellow aldermen to allow the fowl.
A residents group that formed after the previous council rejection, Rolling Meadows Citizens for Chickens, lobbied aldermen and came to meetings to allay concerns over cleanliness, property values and a possible increase in predators.
The narrow tally Tuesday mirrored the first reading vote from two weeks before, but two aldermen changed their votes: Nick Budmats initially was opposed but later said "yes," and Jon Bisesi was in favor before polling residents in his Ward 5 -- 60%, he said, were against the chickens.
Other aldermen also collected comments from their wards and said they voted accordingly. Kevin O'Brien said there were two more chicken supporters than opponents in Ward 3, while John D'Astice said opponents outnumbered supporters 5-to-1 in Ward 6.
Mayor Joe Gallo, who doesn't vote with the council but can issue vetoes, supported the chicken program.
"I think sometimes you have to not only go on what majority rule is, but also understand that there are going to be times when a minority is requesting something," Gallo said. "And if it does not cause detriment to the greater majority, then you yourself might find you're in a position of minority one day and want to see a right of yours come up. You should have that inalienable right, whether it's for chickens or something else.
"Whether you're for or against it, keep in mind that you should be for your neighbors also finding happiness in their community, too," he added.