CHAMPAIGN — After years of pecking from residents, city council members will take a look at Champaign's ordinance prohibiting backyard hens and likely will take a straw poll to see if the lawmakers are ready to lift the chicken ban.
The existence of Tuesday (July 9) night's discussion on the chicken ban means a majority of council members were at least willing to talk about it — although that does not guarantee a majority will vote to lift the ban. They will meet at 7 p.m. in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
City administrators have researched chicken rules in other communities and will present their findings to the city council on Tuesday night.
Urbana, for one, is relatively lax in allowing backyard chickens, according to city documents. East of Wright Street, keeping chickens is as simple as keeping any other pet, and Urbana's city codes contain no specific language about hens.
Evanston, on the other hand, is more tight with its ordinance on keeping hens. It requires that its residents obtain a permit to keep hens, and on-site inspections of the hens' living areas are required for annual renewal of that permit. That permit costs up to $25 each year.
If city council members want to open the door to backyard chickens, they will need to direct city administrators on how to write the ordinance and how restrictive they think it should be.
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.
Even if chickens were removed from that section of the code, any noise or odor that might come from a chicken coop would still be regulated by the city's property maintenance codes, and the treatment of chickens would be addressed by the city's ordinances on keeping animals.
Of the cities that administrators researched, residents were generally allowed to keep four to six hens — no roosters — and they were required to be kept in the backyard and fenced in at all times. The sale of their eggs and on-site slaughter of chickens were prohibited in those cities.
In some cases, property deeds may still prohibit residents from keeping hens. According to city documents, most recently-constructed residential subdivisions — including Sawgrass, Boulder Ridge, Trails at Chestnut Grove and Ashland Park — have restrictive covenants on the property deeds that prohibit keeping poultry. Those rules are not controlled or enforced by the city.