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.