Should Des Plaines allow backyard chickens?

Des Plaines is taking another crack at allowing residents to own backyard chickens, potentially joining a growing number of communities doing so.

A couple of experts will give presentations at Monday's city council meeting on raising hens in an urban setting, the first step toward an ordinance expected to face pushback. Supporters say raising chickens is about sustainability and won't cause a nuisance for neighbors.

"You can grow your own garden without a permit," said Sue Almerigi, a lifelong Des Plaines resident. "Why can't you grow your own protein as long as you do it responsibly?"

The speakers will be Ed Furhman, founder of Chicago Land Urban Chicken Keepers-Round Lake Area, and Jennifer Murtoff, an urban chicken consultant in Chicago. If city council members reach a consensus Monday to allow backyard chickens, they'll ask the city staff to draft an ordinance that could be voted on as early as Aug. 21.

Raising chickens for the eggs they produce has been growing in popularity across the suburbs. Most recently, Sugar Grove approved an 18-month trial run for residents in the West suburban village to own hens.

Other communities allowing backyard chickens are Oak Park, Elgin, West Dundee, Deerfield, Evanston, Brookfield and Western Springs. Chicago also permits residents to own chickens. Most communities don't allow roosters.

Third Ward Alderman Denise Rodd, who supports the idea, says eating eggs raised at home is preferable to factory-processed foods. But the city should implement rules for the number of chickens and construction of coops, Rodd said.

Raising chickens in an urban setting has health risks. The Centers for Disease Control is investigating 10 outbreaks of salmonella infections related to people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks. The agency reported 790 cases, including 174 hospitalizations, of illnesses between January and June.

Supporters argue responsible ownership will prevent the spread of infections - which they argue can happen with any pet.

"The bottom line here is you have to be responsible,"Almerigi said. "You have to be a responsible pet owner."

An effort to allow chickens citywide failed to gain support a few years ago, but the city council later passing an ordinance in 2014 allowing them on a limited basis.

The ordinance - created to let the Historic Methodist Campground sponsor a 4-H program - permits up to six chickens on a property of 15 acres that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city council meeting is 7 p.m. Monday at city hall at 1420 Miner St.

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