Champaign looking into lifting ban on backyard chicken pens

Champaign looking into lifting ban on backyard chicken pens

CHAMPAIGN — Backyard chickens will get a hearing in Champaign after the city council this week agreed to hold a discussion on the topic, but that does not guarantee that representatives will remove a prohibition on urban fowl.

Council member Tom Bruno got his colleagues to agree to schedule a study session on the topic after another resident during Tuesday night's meeting publicly requested that council members consider removing the ban. The study session likely will not happen for another couple of months, but it will mark the first time council members formally consider allowing backyard chickens in Champaign.

Champaign City Council members have informally discussed the idea in the past, but always as a side note or after a resident proposed the idea during public comment. It has yet to appear as a formal agenda item.

"I think it's an idea whose time has come," Bruno said on Wednesday. "There's a significant number of people in our community who have asked me over the years to reconsider that prohibition that currently exists in our ordinances. I think they have a point."

The latest resident to ask for a repeal of the prohibition was Karen Carney, who told the city council that she loves living in Champaign — she just wants a few chickens.

"Not a whole flock. Just a few that I would keep in my backyard in a small enclosure," Carney said. "Just a few that I could give fresh eggs to my family and my neighbors and maybe have a few left over."

It was after her comments that Bruno passed around a petition to his colleagues asking for a discussion on the topic. At least five council members need to sign that sheet for a study session to move forward, and Bruno said he got the signatures.

There have been a few holdouts on the city council — Karen Foster has opposed backyard chickens in the past and did so again on Tuesday night.

"I am opposed to having chickens in Champaign," she said. "I feel that if one wants chickens, there are other opportunities."

Other council members are undecided. Deborah Frank Feinen, for one, said she is willing to consider it, but does not know which way she will vote.

"I've been on the fence," Feinen said. "I don't know if I'll support chickens or not support chickens, but I told them I'd sign the study session request so we could talk about it."

The section of the Champaign municipal code that outlaws chickens also prohibits residents from keeping turkey, geese, ducks, sheep or cattle, lions, tigers and bears, among other animals.

By contrast, the city of Urbana does not prohibit chickens. Carney said on Wednesday that she was pleased to hear Champaign will consider the topic and that it goes hand-in-hand with sprouting efforts to support local food and farmers.

"It's an attempt to really connect with the food that you're eating," Carney said.

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rsp wrote on April 04, 2013 at 8:04 am

My son used to live next to some people with chickens in Urbana and almost every neighbor didn't know they were there, even though on rare occasions the rooster would crow. Good for pest control too. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on April 05, 2013 at 1:04 am
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Roosters are illegal in Urbana, and for good reason.

lcoil79 wrote on April 05, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Incorrect.  They are not illegal in Urbana.  However, if they are making excessive noise and disturbing the peace, then they have to be gotten rid of.  Look at the ordinances, Urbana doesn't disriminate based on sex, only noise.

rainhorizon wrote on April 04, 2013 at 9:04 am

Unfortunately, my boyfriend lives next door to a family with chickens in Urbana on a state street and the owners purposefully allow the chickens free run of the neighborhood.  Cars have to slow to avoid hitting them, kids chase them or are chased by them on their way home from school, they graze in his front yard and passerbys knock to tell him "his" chickens are out.  Suggestions that they should keep their chickens penned within their yard have fallen on deaf ears.  The city of Urbana appears to not have any ordinance to deal with  this issue--animal control will not pick rogue chickens up, although if they did, it would keep this type of thing from happening more often.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

Chickens in the Midwest need chicken coops.  Chicken coops need to be cleaned regularly.  If your neighbor does not clean his yard waste left by his lab retriever, will your other neighbor clean his chicken coop?  Be thankful that the resident wanting chickens did not want goats.

tater12 wrote on April 09, 2013 at 8:04 am

Start picking them up yourself.  Give them to people that live outside of town or something.  He's obviously not minding them the way he should.  Or put up a sign in his front yard that says "free chickens" :)

teresai wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

Great, just what Champaign needs, chickens in town! If this doesn't scream "redneck" I don't know what does? how awful. I sure wouldn't want to live next door to someone w/ chickens. If Ms. Carney wants some chickens, move to the country, that's what farms are for, or she can move to Urbana. I sure don't know anyone who would buy a $200,000 (or more) home and want chickens around them. I can sure see all HOA's adding an ammendment to their existing bylaws.

hoyt wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

The following U.S. cities allow backyard chickens, albeit under certain stipulations:


New York, NY

Los Angeles, CA

Chicago, IL

Seattle, WA

Houston, TX

Miami, FL

Minneapolis, MN

San Antonio, TX

Austin, TX

Syracuse, NY

Anaheim, CA

Madison, WI

Albuquerque, NM

Raleigh, NC

Oakland, CA

Denver, CO

Las Vegas, NV

St. Louis, MO

Berkeley, CA

State College, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Louisville, KY

Atlanta, GA

New Orleans, LA

Nashville, TN

Boise, ID

San Jose, CA

Olympia, WA


Are those places considered "redneck"?


Danno wrote on April 04, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Each of the afore metioned metropolitan areas are known for, in certain neighborhoods, the use of 'Fight Dog Bait', including, amongst others...chickens. I might suggest to the homeowner to lease space for her chickens; in a like fashion as an owner of a 'horse.'

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 05, 2013 at 10:04 am

Really? Seattle?

In reality, in most metropolitan cases, it has to do with granola hippie culture, and nothing to do with dogfighting.

Danno wrote on April 05, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Yes, Seattle, Sir. As in the reality of most metropolitan, 'cases,' as you must phrase it.

gollygeewillikers wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

Well it's official. This place is for the birds.  I suppose everyone should get a goat to mow the yard and keep weeds at "baa"y.  I'm not so sure it screams redneck, but it does say something....  I'd bet someone could apply for a grant and charge the state/city a cool million to study the plight of chickens in an urban environment.  And the wheels on the bus .....  ah, I need some more popcorn.    

LocalTownie wrote on April 04, 2013 at 4:04 pm

So, if having a couple of chickens in your backyard is "redneck", what about having a garden? Is that "redneck" too?

I think chickens are probably less disruptive than some of my neighbor's barking dogs. I don't understand what the big deal is. I think it would be great to have a few chickens so I could have fresh eggs.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on April 05, 2013 at 1:04 am
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Wouldn't it be nice if Urbana were interested  in barking dogs?  


I've heard Champaign does better, because it contracts with the county. Where are you?

ClearVision wrote on April 08, 2013 at 10:04 am

I've been told Ms. Carney recently moved to the city from the county. If that's so, she had a choice, and decided to move into the city in spite of the rules and regulations. If she wanted to keep livestock and it was so important, why move from a rural area? Why move to Champaign instead of Urbana, where keeping chickens is legal? We all have to make choices; we should live with them rather than try to make everyone else change for our personal wants.

smokn69 wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

I think im going to write a country song bout this.

Marti Wilkinson wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

Even though my daughter doesn't rule the roost in my home, I do understand that she would prefer I not bring home any live chickens. That being said, I think residents ought to be given a choice to keep chickens or not. It would be reasonable for the city to require that chickens be kept in a coop or chicken run, and that the chickens be kept in back or side yards.

Prior to the industrialization of food, it wasn't uncommon for city and town dwellers to keep a chicken or two. There is also a renewed interest in urban agriculture and this reflects it. It would certainly generate business to the local Rural King in Champaign, where chickens are sold. The Common Ground Co-op in Urbana also sells organic feed for chickens.

Living in a municipal area sometimes involves having neighbors who make choices that you may not agree with. Personally, I don't like it when my neighbors use the street as their own personal parking lot. However, it's not illegal on my block to park in the street, so I put up with it. If I'm inclined to be such a curmudgeon that I can't deal with a few inconveniences, then I would probably be better suited for country living.


aurban wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

Just like any animal - a cat or dog, for example - people need to take proper care of their pets. You aren't being a responsible pet owner if you allow your dog to roam the neighborhood without supervision, and the same goes for any other animal. My pet chickens bring my family fresh eggs and joy daily. They free range in our small urban backyard and have a coop for nights and bad weather days. Through a local facebook club (Urbana Area Chicken Tenders), I have learned of several neighbors with chickens. None of us would have known otherwise since the chickens are so quiet and keep to themselves. Unless the chicken ban is lifted from Champaign, I could never even consider moving there or anywhere else that didn't allow these sweet creatures. Chickens have become a major part of my family's lifestyle, and it is a pleasure having them. 

welive wrote on April 04, 2013 at 11:04 am

i might be wrong however there use to be people who had chicken coops in there back yard in the late 80s until the city said no.But did i mention they were located in the north end of town.Funny how now the well to do people want them so they can eat more healthy,And the city says?

Just funny


Citizen1 wrote on April 04, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Lifting the ban would solve some problems on the surrounding "real" farms.  Chickens attract coyotes.  Coyotes get hungry.  So when all of the chickens are dead, coyotes can go after poodles.  Neighbors can no longer complain about the chickens, others won't be able to complain about pet droppings and we in the country won't have coyotes killing our pets.  An all around problem solving idea.

ahowie wrote on April 04, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I just bought a house and I really didn't want to buy in Champaign due to this prohibition. I looked everywhere in Urbana but ended up finding 'the' house in Champaign. I was very sad I had to give up my dream of having a few backyard chickens. I really hope they lift the ban!! Even if they had to be inspected by the health dept. regularly to ensure sanitary conditions, I'd be happy with that!

C in Champaign wrote on April 04, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Even if they lift the ban, don't count your chickens before they hatch. If 'the' house is in a subdivision that was developed after about 1970, a smaller number even earlier than that, there is a very strong possibility that the developer included language in the covenants and restrictions that bars owners from raising or breeding livestock, including chickens. So best to check first. 

ahowie wrote on April 04, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Luckily, my home is in one of the older neighborhoods in town. I'll keep my fingers crossed! wrote on April 04, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I sure do hope this happens! We need to get closer to our food, and having fresh eggs NOT needing to be shipped from many miles away (do we even know what areas our eggs come from?!) is a step in the right direction.

This is how Champaign started. The Land... with railroads and farms! 

And for those of you who call it redneck...go back into your SUV bubble and wait for your food to be delivered to you magically from the, where do you think it comes from?! Labels are so 1980's...

Lift the ban! (Quiet enclosed chickens can't possibly be any worse than my 360degree night and occasional morning racous of angry and ill-treated dogs left outside surrounding my house!!! Yet that's OK!)

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on April 05, 2013 at 1:04 am
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Dog problems have been addressed by local govenments, at the political level, for decades. But few municipalities have effective enforcement.


If your municipality is not enforcing nuisance laws, you might as well keep chickens. Who'll stop you?

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 05, 2013 at 1:04 pm

You are welcome to get your eggs from the MeatLab, the Farmer's Market, or Old Time Meat and Deli - all specify where the eggs come from. And that's without bringing disease, germs, noise, smell, and nuisance into a populated area.

sameeker wrote on April 07, 2013 at 9:04 am

You don't just "get" the eggs at those places. You have to BUY them. there is nothing wrong with allowing people to produce their own.

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 08, 2013 at 11:04 am

Do you really think home done eggs are cheaper?

And yes, there is something wrong with it. They bring in disease, noise, smell, and general nuisance to the neighborhood. If they want to raise livestock, they can do it on a farm. Or in Urbana. Really the same thing.

serf wrote on April 08, 2013 at 11:04 am

A bit of an overstatement.

45solte wrote on April 06, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Redneck? Maybe more hipster.

trent_il wrote on April 10, 2013 at 10:04 am

Ha. Great link. Thanks for sharing that. I hope to have chickens one day but plan to live in the country first. I would like to raise them for eggs as well as for meat and regular slaughtering doesn't seem like a neighborhood-friendly practice.

I have no strong feelings about people being allowed to have them in town or not and I hope the city council carefully considers all arguments and potential repercussions of their ruling. However, I think the "redneck" label is a bit uncalled for as well.

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 05, 2013 at 11:04 am

Finally an article addressing the most important social issue of our time. Chicken equality. I think Champaign chickens should not have the same rights as Urbana chickens.  Also I feel the Chicken unions are at the heart of what is wrong with this country and those grade A extra large 47%er socialist chickens have been getting away with eating subsidized seed paid for with my tax money for too long!! No more pensions for chickens,  and as always the only thing that can stop a bad chicken with a gun is a good chicken with a gun. ( I feel like I owe a royalty check to mark Taylor now)

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 05, 2013 at 2:04 pm

It is ironic that some of the rural villages surrounding Champaign-Urbana have banned raising chickens, and livestock within the village boundaries while the metropolitan municipalities want to raise chickens in their communities.   Most of the rural residents of the villages have years of experience with chickens in the village problems like odor, disease, unsanitary conditions, and nuisance complaints.  

How many of the pro-chicken metropolitan residents have experience with chicken waste, disease, and maintenance?  How many do not take care of their cats, and dogs?  How many do not properly maintain their gardens?  The cities will need livestock inspectors when the problems increase.  Pigeons in the tumbler, and racing varieties should be acceptable also if chickens are approved.  What about turkeys?  Geese?   Minature horses not exceeding 12 hands?       

fuddrules wrote on April 05, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I wonder what Foghorn Leghorn thinks about this?

fuddrules wrote on April 05, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I wonder what Foghorn Leghorn thinks about this?

Danno wrote on April 05, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Well, since you brought up Mr Foghorn Leghorn, let's find out what he thinks:

It's 'bout 6:45 min;

asparagus wrote on April 06, 2013 at 8:04 am

I've noticed over the years an awful lot of hawks in the area.  Don't they prey on chickens?

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 06, 2013 at 9:04 am

Henry Hawk tried to do it; but Foghorn just didn't cooperate.  Lot's of varmits prey on chickens.  Do you take a dead chicken to the veterarian for creamation, or dump it in the trash?

nndsmom wrote on April 08, 2013 at 11:04 am

You fry it up for dinner.

SaintClarence27 wrote on April 08, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Unless it dies from disease, of which there will be plenty.

ZachsGrandma wrote on April 07, 2013 at 9:04 am
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I happen to think inner city backyard chickens may not be a wise idea, but for those of us that live out on the edge of town in Champaign county, should be able to if we so choose. But that is making sure that there is a properly put together coop and the chickens cannot get out and run free all over the neighborhood.  Make sure that the coops are kept clean. Have any of these people paid any attention to the price of chicken or the price of eggs? They keep going up. The price of milk? Seriously. I am not personally wanting a cow or a small farm. I just would like to have a few chickens for personal use and to help out my parents, (my father eats alot of eggs and chicken), who are aging and dont have alot of financial means to get by, thanks to the government. Just because people have never been raised on a farm and never had the experience, doesnt make this a bad thing and it doesnt make people REDNECKS to try to fend for themselves. I am from the city, family from the south, and I would never be too prissy to make a way to cut costs and feed myself an my family. How do you think you get your meat, veggies and eggs? Someone has to do it!

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 07, 2013 at 9:04 am

People need to check first with their home owners association if they have one.  At least; be a good neighbor, and ask your immediate neighbors how they feel about a chicken coop next to their property.  It will affect the resale value of their house.  It would be interesting to get the C-U real estate firms opinion on the subject.

Suzqh55 wrote on April 07, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I moved from Bement to Urbana a few years ago. I live in "Historic East Urbana" and love it because of eclectic neighborhood. I found it very interesting that I never saw chickens or ducks when I lived in Bement, but when I moved to Urbana my neighbor had ducks. When that neighbor moved and there were no longer ducks I found that I missed their quacking - it was never bothersome. When I first moved here I discovered there were a few houses with chickens. Never knew it until I walked by the house the second or third time and I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I seriously doubt that someone who wants to keep chickens because she wants to know where her food comes from is going to let her chickens live in dirty conditions; that kind of defeats the purpose of "growing" your own food. I never like it when people use manure on their gardens because of the smell. But, it's much better than the chemical smell from the lawn care companies.

pattsi wrote on April 07, 2013 at 6:04 pm

In  the spirit of joining this spirited conversation about chickens, here is the ordinance from Green Bay, WI.

Yes, I know this is another state with different cultures than Illinois. But what intrigued me when I taught a the U. of Wisconsin, Green Bay was the large number of chickens in many, many yards. This was in 1996 and the major minority then and probably now are the Mung. It is very common in their culture to have chickens and other animals, being raised for food. Their abodes were right in town. Never a word of complaint.

ERE wrote on April 08, 2013 at 11:04 am
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Seems ridiculous for Champaign to ban backyard fowl-what are they, chicken? Way behind on the trend. 

C'mon, Rob, what's so bad about hearing a rooster or two? I used to live in San Antonio where city chickens were common. Occasionally you'd here them crowing in the morning but it was never much of a problem. Unless you sleep in a tent, it's not earth-shatteringly loud. 

They even make really cool urban chicken coops now-check out this one by Omlet: