CHAMPAIGN — "Bring on the chickens," the Champaign City Council was told Tuesday — and that's what the council indicated it's prepared to do.
Council members voted 8-1 to have staff draft code amendments that would allow city residents to keep hens for egg production.
Sixteen people — including former Champaign County Board Chair C. Pius Weibel and Champaign school board member Lynn Stuckey — urged the council to drop the city's ban on chickens.
Only council member Vic McIntosh opposed the move to allow chickens in backyards.
City staff checked with five other cities, including Evanston and Madison, Wis., to see how chickens are regulated there.
Mayor Don Gerard credited backyard-chicken advocate Karen Carney for orchestrating a grass-roots educational campaign that symbolized "true democracy."
He said he received more emails on the chicken issue than on any tax issue and that the emails contained quality information.
Council members Deborah Frank Feinen and Karen Foster both said their votes in favor were influenced by things they learned in the last week or so.
Council member Tom Bruno, calling himself "pro-chicken," said chickens are likely to be quieter than dogs.
He added that while unwanted dogs and cats can pose a problem, unwanted chickens could be taken out to a rural farm and "even be Sunday night dinner — that's what we do with chickens."
Deborah Campbell of 1518 W. Park St., C, said she has had 20 years of experience with chickens and called them "fastidious groomers."
She said those who raise backyard chickens are "as dedicated as members of any dog fancier clubs."
Council members generally agreed that no roosters should be allowed in backyards, and many suggested the city initially restrict the number of chickens per yard to somewhere between four and eight.
Though some cities have setback requirements for coops, some council members said they would be willing to waive the requirements if neighbors gave written consent.
Several members said they would like to see a small permit fee for those who raise chickens.
Among the citizens who spoke up for hens was Tom Ahasic of 3005 Cherry Hills Drive, who said his daughter raised a chicken for a 4-H project before learning poultry couldn't be kept inside city limits.
His daughter said chicken-raising is beneficial for kids and teaches them responsibility. She said her chicken won "best in show" out of 150 birds.
Martin Wolske of 1806 Clover Lane, said allowing chickens would give Champaign "a more earth-friendly living environment."
John Lindell of 305 W. Vine St. — whose call to "bring on the chickens" brought cheers from the audience — said he hopes his neighbor will be able to raise them.