CHAMPAIGN – Why did the chickens cross Wright Street?
So their owners wouldn't get fined.
It's one of the places in their municipal codes where Champaign and Urbana differ: you can keep backyard chickens in Urbana, but not in Champaign.
The law was brought to the attention of the Champaign City Council on Tuesday night during the public comment portion of the council's meeting. Backyard chicken supporters are pushing for a change in the Champaign law after city workers told volunteers at the St. Jude Catholic Worker House they had to get rid of their chickens.
Supporters proposed an amendment to the Champaign municipal code that would legislate "not only for the city's and neighbors' benefit, but also for the sake of the chickens," said Chris Watson, a volunteer at the Catholic Worker House.
Mayor Jerry Schweighart told one of the supporters on Tuesday night that he would distribute a petition to the other council members to allow for a change in the code. Five council members would have to sign the petition for the issue to be placed on the agenda.
Backyard chickens are more common than you might think, Urbana resident Spencer Schaffner said. He keeps five fowl in his backyard, and is part of a discussion group called the "Urbana Chicken Effort."
"They're terrific to be around," Schaffner said. "They produce eggs; they produce great fertilizer for the garden; they eat insects."
And they are an attraction for the neighborhood, too. He said his backyard is part of an informal "coop tour."
"People ride their bikes from coop to coop to kind of check out designs," Schaffner said.
Watson said the Catholic Worker House got its eight hens about two months ago when volunteers wanted to expand their community garden.
Last week, volunteers received notice from the city that the chickens had to go. Now, the chickens are staying with a friend in Urbana.