CHAMPAIGN — City administrators have a proposal ready to go to the city council that would make it possible for homeowners to keep chickens within the city limits.
The current prohibition on chickens has garnered some attention during the past couple years from people who say it would be nice to have easy access to fresh eggs from a few hens in their backyards.
City council members gave the go-ahead earlier this year for administrators to start writing an ordinance that would legalize backyard chickens in Champaign, and officials are scheduled to review that proposal on Nov. 12. If they like the proposal, it could get final approval as soon as December.
City planner Lacey Rains Lowe presented the proposed rules to a handful of interested residents during a public meeting this week. Champaign residents would be allowed to keep between two and six hens — no roosters — and they must first register their "farm" with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and then obtain a license from the city.
They likely would have to pay a fee for that license. The price of a license is still under review and could be tweaked by the city council, as could any of the rules in the proposal.
Chicken coops will also have to be set back some distance from the property line — other communities generally require 10 to 15 feet of separation — and no odor can be present at the property line. Chicken coops will need to be fully enclosed.
The rules were written by a number of city departments — planning, zoning, code compliance and police officers were all involved — and Lowe said the proposal takes in a number of rules that have been successful in other communities.
"We wanted to make something that was not going to be burdensome for the folks who are seeking to raise chickens," Lowe said. "Not overly burdensome to them, but a set of codes that will hopefully prevent most of the neighborhood concerns and enforcement conflicts that people have raised."
She said Champaign's program was crafted largely after Evanston's and Carbondale's. Lowe said those two cities have not had any complaints since the programs were put in place.
The city chicken license would automatically renew every 12 months if owners had no enforcement actions against them, and the license holder would not have to pay the fee again.
Licenses would be revoked in any case of animal cruelty or animals used for entertainment. They could also be revoked if the license holder has three enforcement actions.
By contrast, Urbana residents have always been allowed to keep backyard chickens with little regulation. Lowe said the extra rules in Champaign are meant to mitigate some concerns residents have expressed while "at the same time, not create something that's so difficult that no one would be able to fulfill the standards."