Palatine might make it easier for residents to keep backyard chickens

  • Palatine residents Julie Picchiotti, standing, and Mallory Miller, seated, are among supporters of creating a backyard chicken ordinance in the village. They spoke at a village council meeting earlier this month.

    Palatine residents Julie Picchiotti, standing, and Mallory Miller, seated, are among supporters of creating a backyard chicken ordinance in the village. They spoke at a village council meeting earlier this month. Photo courtesy of village of Palatine

  • Mallory Miller is among 802 people who signed a petition to create a backyard chicken ordinance in Palatine. She is pictured here in July with her daughter, Inde Mazza.

    Mallory Miller is among 802 people who signed a petition to create a backyard chicken ordinance in Palatine. She is pictured here in July with her daughter, Inde Mazza. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/28/2021 1:20 PM

After receiving a petition with 802 signatures, the Palatine village council now plans to discuss whether to create a backyard hen ordinance sometime in the first half of 2022.

Residents are allowed to have backyard hens -- not roosters -- with a special use permit. That means they have to submit a plan, have a public hearing before the zoning board of appeals, and get approval from the village council.

 

The process is cumbersome and decisions are not made objectively, petition supporters told the council earlier this month.

"Special use applications for hens are not necessary as henkeeping is entirely private in nature and does not impact neighboring properties in any way," resident Julie Picchiotti said.

Resident Mallory Miller said she looked into past applications and found varying reliance on conditions regarding setbacks and lot size, and overreliance on statements, not researched, made by neighbors.

"The special use process does not create open discussion between neighbors as hoped, but divides them," Miller said.

Backyard chicken ordinances spell out limits, such as the maximum number of hens allowed, coop setback from neighboring properties, and other restrictions.

Suburbs with such ordinances include Elgin, Des Plaines, Villa Park, Wauconda, Wheeling, Grayslake, Rolling Meadows, Highland Park, Naperville, Deerfield, Oak Park and Evanston. Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Mundelein, Buffalo Grove and Arlington Heights are among those that do not.

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Supporters in Palatine asked the council to consider starting with a pilot program allowing a capped number of permits, similar to what Elgin did in 2015. That city's program showed backyard hens cause "no disruption in sound, sight, smell and property value," Picchiotti said.

Any opposition is based on "fears and misconceptions," Picchiotti said.

Hens are not noisy -- they only cluck when they lay eggs in their coops -- and their feces can be composted and used as fertilizer, she said. They are fed via special feeders and kept in roofed coops to keep out predators, such as coyotes. Owners take them to the vet "like any other pet owner," she said.

Most importantly, backyard hens live in better conditions than those in industrial production, and produce healthier eggs for families, Picchiotti added.

By comparison, dogs can cause more issues, Picchiotti said.

Village documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed 10 complaints related to backyard hens in the last 10 years, compared to 2,527 complaints related to dogs, she said.

Council members didn't express their opinion but agreed to talk about the issue next year.

"Please be patient and we'll certainly work through this," Mayor Jim Schwantz said.

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