Kendall County OKs backyard chickens for Boulder Hill and other unincorporated residential areas

Chickens peck around for food in Andy Atwell's backyard in unincorporated Barrington.

Numerous area municipalities including Yorkville, Oswego, Plano and beyond allow residents to keep backyard chickens, so many residents of unincorporated Boulder Hill have long assumed that they enjoyed the same privilege.

Kendall County Board member Seth Wormley said the county estimates that as many as 60 households in Boulder Hill, with a population of about 8,500 people, have egg-laying hens in backyard coops.

Yet the county’s ordinance has not permitted most residents of Kendall’s unincorporated areas to keep the feathered farm creatures, until now.

The County Board on June 27 approved a text amendment to its ordinance, permitting up to six hens at single-family homes on properties of less than one acre. For homesites one acre or larger, as many as 12 of the chickens are now allowed.

The board’s action came as the result of a petition by Boulder Hill residents who keep egg-laying hens in their backyards.

“I have had my hens for over six years and they have brought me countless rewards,” Boulder Hill resident Rebecca Wintczak told the board.

“I believe that residents should have the right to affordable food and the savings that hens provide,” Wintczak said. “Why should wealthier Oswego have the right to grow their own food when we in modest and unincorporated Boulder Hill do not?”

Other Boulder Hill residents spoke to the board, explaining that they had assumed that their chickens had a legal roost.

Wormley, chairman of the board’s Planning, Building and Zoning Committee, called the change “a reasonable plan” and said no opposition materialized during the county’s investigation and approval process.

“This provides opportunities for residents to thrive and live their best lives,” said County Board member Brooke Shanley, who worked with Wormley on the ordinance change.

In a memo to the board, Planning, Building and Zoning Director Matt Asselmeier outlined the regulations for keeping backyard chickens, on lots zoned for single-family residential use.

No roosters nor any other poultry would be permitted, Asselmeier said. Coops must be located at least 10 feet from residential lot lines and uncovered fence enclosures must be a least four feet in height. The sale of chickens or eggs is prohibited, he added.

The county’s ordinance is similar to those already in place in Yorkville, where the City Council approved backyard hens just last year, in Oswego and communities throughout the Chicago area, including the big city itself.

Wintczak dismissed concerns that hens might be noisy.

“My next-door neighbor did not know we had hens for several years until we started sharing eggs with them,” Wintczak said, adding that hen-keeping residents are unlikely to risk the privilege by attempting to keep roosters, which “are quite difficult to conceal.”

County Board member Dan Koukol, another member of the planning, building and zoning panel, said he initially was skeptical of the idea but was won over by the residents.

Koukol added that it will be up to residents to police themselves and make sure the ordinance’s provisions are being followed.