DANVILLE — For two years, Joyce Schmitt has been asking the city of Danville to allow chickens in the city, and now that Champaign has written its new ordinance allowing them, Danville officials plan to consider doing the same.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said besides Schmitt, there have been a few other residents who have asked in recent years if chickens could be allowed in the city. Eisenhauer said he plans to get a copy of Champaign's ordinance, take a look at that and what other cities have done and then take the issue to the city council's public services committee in either December or January to see if aldermen would like to move forward with it.
Schmitt, 83, has also talked to some aldermen in the last two years, trying to convince them to allow chickens, so she is pleased the city may be moving forward now.
Although she knew it was against the city's ordinance, Schmitt bought five chicks two years ago and converted a dog pen to a chicken yard behind her house on Robinson Street.
"I knew there was an ordinance against it, but it's a dumb ordinance," said Schmitt, who grew up on a farm in Kentucky that had chickens. "In my waning years, I feel like I need something to keep me busy."
Schmitt said she wanted chickens for the eggs, but she and her husband also would sit in their lawn chairs in the back yard and watch the hens talk to each other and move around the pen.
"They are so interesting... A spectator sport," she said with a laugh.
But Schmitt said besides giving her some entertainment, the hens also gave her brother, Paul "Buzz" Cassady, something to do.
"It's good therapy for him," she said, explaining that he would feed them, water them and wash the pen. "It helped him, and kept him amused, I guess."
But eventually city officials were knocking on her door, and she had to get rid of the chickens.
Then last spring, Schmitt defied the city ordinance again, and bought six more chicks. But just after they started laying eggs, the city came knocking again. Both times, Schmitt said, they've given the hens to a friend who lives on a farm outside the city limits and had lost his chickens to raccoons. Since then, he's reinforced his chicken coop, and Schmitt's 11 hens are doing well there.
Schmitt had the hen house removed from the pen in her back yard, but she said she's eager to bring it back and buy more chicks this spring if the city decides to allow them.