Legalize Backyard Chickens in Skokie, IL

Legalize Backyard Chickens in Skokie, IL

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Natalie Gillespie started this petition to Skokie Village Board

Skokie Chicken Legalization Initiative Proposal (in progress): 


Since humans first domesticated animals, keeping chickens has meant food security, companionship and sound ecological stewardship. Not only are they goofy, loving pets and the only animals to give eggs daily, but chickens are also efficient at deterring vermin in compost by gobbling the tastiest fruit and vegetable scraps before other creatures can get to them. 

As urban areas grew around the turn of the 20th century, municipalities began zoning out urban livestock keeping, disrupting the local economy that allowed residents to provide for themselves.  The US government actively encouraged homeowners to keep chickens and other livestock during wartime when it was considered your patriotic duty to be self-sufficient, but immediately after, municipalities celebrated the economic boom times by encouraging the "family values" of living in smaller family units where the old fashioned support of extended family and local neighborhood economies would be rendered unnecessary by appliances and disposable factory made consumer items. Keeping livestock became shorthand for grimmer economic fortunes and a thorn in the side of the burgeoning mega farming industry.

Current Situation:

Children now no longer grow up understanding where the food on their tables came from, let alone its value in labor or nutrition.  Lower income residents struggle with access to healthy food, putting pressure on food stamps and more junk food into circulation. People working long hours have fewer incentives to boost their mental health by spending active time outdoors connecting with their neighbors.  Personally, I adore animals but am allergic to most animal fur. I work hours that are too long to pay adequate attention to a house bird, so I would love to come home to chickens who are friendly but don’t need as much human companionship.  

Benefits to Skokie: 

In 2017, Skokie set out a Community Health plan that aims to address the health concerns that matter most to community members right now.  Restoring the legality of backyard chicken keeping is one step that would contribute to many of the goals in this plan. Among them: 

- Strengthen initiatives that encourage active lifestyles, good nutrition, and create supportive environments
- Make physical activity an integral and routine part of life. 
- Ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice. 
- Ensure that programs are culturally inclusive and family oriented.
- Provide social and psychological support by promoting access to high-quality services for all members of the community.
- Support activities that bring the community together, reduce isolation, and promote social connections.
- Build a culture of collaboration in Skokie to reduce inequities

Other benefits of backyard chicken keeping: 

- Less animal cruelty than factory farmed eggs
- Chickens are fun, friendly pets with educational value 
- They can provide food security for struggling residents
- They lay healthier eggs compared to store-bought eggs
- They give gardeners high-quality fertilizer
- They help control flies, vermin and other pests, not add to them
- They dispose of weeds and kitchen scraps that otherwise might end up in the landfill (SEAC 2016 goal!)

Common concerns to address with this proposal:

Noise - Female chickens (hens) are quieter than house cats. Male chickens (roosters) are quieter than most dogs. You don’t need roosters to get eggs.  Therefore many municipalities only allow female chickens.  

Cleanliness/Health/smell - Setting licensing parameters and requiring education for chicken owners prevents overcrowding and poor upkeep that are endemic to pet ownership.   

Vermin - Chickens defend their nests against rats and mice quite effectively. They quickly claim the tastiest fruit and vegetable compost scraps for themselves, discouraging vermin and flies in their area.  

Predators - The role of a rooster is to fight off predators to his flock, but hens are also quite good at defending themselves.  Native predators like coyotes, hawks or raccoons will only go after housepets if they are desperate. Housepets do not lure predators into urban areas.  Good chicken keeping practices like secure coops, chicken wire enclosures for younger chickens and supervised free range time are also effective at deterring predators.  

End of Life - It is up to the municipality how they want to regulate end of life.   Some consider chickens to be the same as other pets, with similar regulations, while others permit slaughter and processing of chickens at home or at licensed slaughterhouses for consumption.   


Proposed terms: 

For the purpose of this section only, the following definitions apply:

“chicken” shall mean a female gendered domesticated fowl (hen) of the subspecies Gallus gallus domesticus.

“rooster” shall mean the male gender of the subspecies Gallus gallus domesticus.

“coop” shall mean an enclosure or a cage consisting of four (4) walls, a roof and a floor with adequate ventilation and appropriate access and egress, designed in such a way as to provide safe and healthy living conditions to house chickens


Except as otherwise specifically permitted or prohibited by this Municipal Code, chickens shall only be allowed to be kept as pets or for purposes of producing a limited, non-commercial amount of eggs under the following conditions:

- A minimum of two (2) and maximum of six (6) chickens with a minimum of four square feet per chicken shall be kept in residential areas on a lot size of no less than 3,000 square feet.
- Roosters shall not be permitted to be kept on properties zoned as residential.
- Each coop shall be constructed in such a way as to be impenetrable by vermin or other predators so as to provide adequate protection for the chickens and their eggs
- Each coop and enclosure shall be kept in clean, dry, odor-free and sanitary condition at all times.
- Chickens shall be provided with access to feed and clean water at all times. The feed and water shall be rendered unavailable to rodents, other birds, vermin and other predators.
- All chicken enclosures and coops shall be kept free of trash and accumulated droppings. Uneaten feed must be removed in a timely manner.
- Building of chicken coops shall fall within the “shed” permitting process
- Licenses for coops must be obtained and shall meet the rules of this chapter where applicable.
- Prior to a license being granted to an applicant, the applicant must show proof of notice to all adjacent landowners except landowners that are municipalities or utilities.
- Prior to a license being granted to an applicant, the applicant must show proof of attendance at a chicken keeping class (available through Morton Arboretum, may be offered by Emily Oaks or The Talking Farm) 
- Coop licenses shall not run with the land.
- Applications for the first 5 coops shall be submitted to __________, thereafter licenses may be obtained from the collections division

References: history of urban agriculture regulation 

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