Palos Hills votes on limits for chickens per household

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills officials believe they have come up with a fair ordinance to address a fowl issue.

The city council last Thursday voted unanimously to draft an ordinance that limits residents from keeping more than four chickens on their property and prohibits anyone in town from owning a rooster.

City officials stated last week that Palos Hills’ animal ordinance was “pretty broad,” and not extremely detailed when it pertains to rules and regulations on chickens and other fowl. The current ordinance, which has been on the books for years, does not restrict the number of chickens or roosters per household.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett told the council he fielded a few calls this summer from residents complaining about a noisy rooster and chickens roaming free in the neighborhood. Bennett said another caller told him allowing chickens attracts coyotes and other predators.

“There’s really nothing to our ordinance,” Bennett told the council. “We can do three things: we can keep what’s on the books; make some modifications or ban them altogether.”

Several aldermen then spoke up in support of allowing residents to continue to own chickens. Ald. Mike Lebarre (3rd) noted since Palos Hills has been allowing chickens “probably since the beginning of time” that it “would be pretty difficult” to ban them now.

Palos Hills officials considered following neighboring Palos Park’s policy of restricting the number of chickens based on the size of a resident’s lot, but ultimately decided against it.

“I think figuring out how many we want to allow max is probably a better bet instead of dealing with (number of chickens) per acre and half acre,” said Ald. Joan Knox (1st), who serves as chairwoman of the city council’s legislation and ordinance committee.

Ald. Ricky Moore (4th) agreed with Knox’s suggestion.

“I feel we should keep it simple and nip it in the bud,” Moore said. “Let’s not make it something major.”

The council tossed around the idea of allowing five or six chickens per residency, but ultimately settled on the number four.

“I think most people have the chickens for the eggs and (four chickens) should provide enough eggs,” Knox said.

Palos Hills officials had little trouble agreeing that roosters should be prohibited in town.

“If the purpose (of allowing chickens) is for the eggs and roosters do not lay eggs then I would say we discount roosters (from the ordinance),” Knox said.

Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd) added there have occasionally been roosters in town and she has received complaints from residents because of the amount of noise they produce, especially in the morning.

“I know I got phone calls that they were waking up babies,” she said.

The draft ordinance also states that all food for chickens must be kept in “rodent-proof containers,” the chickens must be kept in a coup, building or pen that “protects them from predators and trespassers” and is at least 25 feet away from the home. The enclosures must also be cleaned a minimum of once every seven days.

The council did not come to a decision on what to do with residents who already own more than four chickens. City officials discussed grandfathering in those people, but the issue is not addressed in the draft ordinance.

Ald. Marty Kleefisch (1st) was the lone official to state he was opposed to allowing chickens in town.

“I believe farm animals should be on agriculturally zoned properties, not residentially zoned properties,” Kleefisch told the council. “As cute as it sounds to have your own eggs in the backyard, I don’t think it’s appropriate for an urban setting.”

Although the city is on the verge of adopting the ordinance, Knox does not anticipate it will lead to an influx of chickens in town.

“I don’t think (the ordinance) is going to bring people in droves to get chickens,” Knox said. “I think people that really want chickens are the chicken people already. I think we’re just setting some perimeters.

“When we pass this ordinance, I’m not running out to get a chicken.”

Those found in violation of the chicken ordinance are subject to an $80 fine, Knox said.

In other news, Palos Hills officials voted 5-4 to table a vote on creating a new classification in the liquor ordinance for video gaming cafés.

Labarre asked for the vote to be postponed because the full council was not present with the absence of Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th).

It is expected the item will be removed from the table once all 10 aldermen are present.