Palos Hills approves ordinance for four chickens per family

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills officials believe their fowl ordinance is now a bit more fair.

The city council voted 7-2 with one abstention to amend its chicken ordinance Sept. 15. The most noteworthy change is in the number of years granted for one to comply with the city’s rule that no homeowner may own more than four chickens.

When the ordinance was approved in 2015 it stated residents who had more than four chickens on their property had three years to get in compliance. City officials opted to amend the ordinance last week to give residents up to five years to comply. Ald. Joan Knox (1st Ward), who serves as chairwoman of the legislation and ordinance committee, said the impetus to grant an additional two years came after a resident who owns 15 chickens told city officials that three years may not be adequate time for some of her fowl to live out the rest of their lives.

Ald. Ricky Moore (4th Ward) was the most vocal in granting an additional two years. With the average lifespan of a chicken around seven years the thought by the council was most chickens will have reached the end of their life within five years. Residents with more than four chickens may not replace any chicken that dies or is lost if it would push the number of chickens they own past four.

“I would rather error on giving citizens more than enough time,” Moore said. I’m going to support amending the ordinance to allow for five years instead of three.”

Ald. Mary Ann Schultz (5th Ward) and Marty Kleefisch (1st Ward) cast the votes against amending the ordinance while Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd Ward) abstained from voting.

Schultz said after the council meeting that she believed three years was an “adequate amount of time to comply” with the ordinance and did not believe granting an additional two years was necessary.

“If you want to keep 15 chickens then buy a farm,” Schultz said. “I’m sorry but I would not want to live next to someone who has 15 chickens.

“I have no problem with someone keeping a chicken or two in town it’s just that having a dozen or more can get excessive.”

Prior to approving the chicken ordinance last year, Palos Hills had no restriction on the number of chickens a resident could own. The city settled on the number four after taking into consideration average lot sizes and researching chicken ordinances in other municipalities, Knox said.

“Probably the most thought about the ordinance went into the number (of chickens one can keep),” Knox said. “We tried to be fair when it comes to lot size because we have some very big lots and we have tiny lots in Palos Hills. The council kind of debated the number back and forth and four (chickens) was kind of the general consensus. That was the number we were most OK with.

“I think there were some residents that had a lot of chickens and their neighbors weren’t really loving the idea,” Knox said. “We tried to make it equitable for everyone.”

The ordinance prohibits any chicken from roaming at large and instead the bird must be kept in a coop or run, which must also be located in the rear of the yard at least 25 feet from the property line and at least 25 feet from another house. In addition, the coup shall provide a minimum of four square feet of floor area per chicken and the run provide a minimum of eight square feet of floor area per chicken. The ordinance requires those residents who wish to maintain chickens on their property to purchase a coop permit at a fee of $25. Residents must also register their chickens with the city, but there is no fee for the registration.

Those found to have more than four chickens without the grandfather clause are subject to a fine of $80 per day, according to Beverly Williams, the city’s animal control officer.

In other news, Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) told the council he would like to see a way in which the city could assist those residents who have to remove dead ash trees from their properties.

Brachman said he would be in favor of the city working with a contractor to offer discounts to residents who have to rid deceased ash trees from their yards.

Mayor Gerald Bennett said residents could contact the city and Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley could recommend a nursery, but he was uneasy about contracting a company to offer reduced rates to residents.

“We can talk to someone about doing that but the problem we’d have is if something does go wrong it could turn around and bite us,” Bennett said. “What happens if we recommend some contractor and then the tree end up dying within a year?”

“It’s a bit of a sticky wicket,” Weakley said. “If we start making these recommendations to specific contractors it’s like we are creating an exclusivity to that particular contractor and then other contractors are offended by that and could call us out saying we are showing favoritism.

“I’m much more comfortable recommending registered contractors that are in our building department’s registry.”

Brachman said after the meeting he had a solution if a contractor came to the city and was upset there was a discounted program with another contractor.

“My feeling is that’s fine then do it for the same price,” Brachman said.

Brachman said he will discuss the idea with Weakley in the near future but was uncertain his plan would become a reality.