South Elgin resident starts push for backyard chickens
Barbara Diepenbrock said she had no idea chickens were not allowed on residential properties in South Elgin when she got four chicks on Mother's Day.
When she found out, she said, she "re-homed" them about a month later to a family in unincorporated Kane County, where hens are allowed.
"We didn't want to do it the wrong way," said Diepenbrock, who has children ages 9 and 7. "We said, 'We need to find a home for these chicks and we need to do it the right way.'"
Now, Diepenbrock is starting to rally to get support from fellow residents to push the village to allow backyard chickens. She spoke twice at village board meetings and this week launched a "South Elgin Henmaid" Facebook page to recruit supporters. She also plans to circulate a petition to garner support, she said.
Diepenbrock also reached out to Tia Aagesen, chairwoman of Elgin's sustainability commission, who a few years ago was the driving force behind persuading the Elgin City Council to allow backyard chickens. Aagesen told the South Elgin village board Monday that she is acting as a resource and not in any official capacity.
Village board members didn't make public comments Monday, but asked several questions last month, Diepenbrock said.
It's prohibited in South Elgin "to harbor or keep any live horse, cattle, swine, sheep, goat, or pigeons or to raise any chickens or fowl anywhere in the village," the ordinance states. Exceptions are animals kept in agriculture zoning districts or under special use.
Village President Steve Ward said it will be up to his fellow board members to decide whether to allow backyard chickens, but if he had to cast a tiebreaking vote, "I'd probably vote no," he said.
"I have two members of my family that had chickens and they do not anymore," Ward said. "It's one thing if you maintain them yourself and you do a good job. But if you don't, your neighbors pay the price because they are very smelly. I don't care what you say, they are very smelly and they are not fun to be around."
Requests to keep backyard chickens have been raised by residents across the suburbs with varying results. In the last year, Lakemoor and Des Plaines rejected that. Those who allow chickens -- always hens, not roosters -- have different requirements about the number permitted, setback from property lines and lot square footage. Batavia, Elgin, Lombard, Naperville, St. Charles, Sugar Grove and Wauconda allow backyard coops, but Arlington Heights, Libertyville and Mundelein do not.
Diepenbrock said she was first exposed to chickens after her parents retired to Wisconsin and got several of them.
"That's where I started to develop an affinity for chickens and the easy, healthy protein that you can get from them," she said. Plus, chicken excrement is a great fertilizer and the whole thing is educational for kids, she said.
The chickens "are not very smart creatures but they are just so sweet," she said.