Streator to consider allowing backyard chickens

Price spike of eggs has led to more questions about chicken ownership

Andy Atwell keeps several breeds of backyard chickens and occasionally lets them out to roam around his yard, which is in an unincorporated area near Barrington.

The increased price of eggs has led to more Streator residents asking City Hall about its backyard chicken ordinances, city officials said Tuesday.

At this time, Streator technically doesn’t allow farm animals on residential properties, but that hasn’t stopped residents from finding loopholes in the ordinance, the City Council was told Tuesday during its committee of the whole meeting.

“Some residents have said the chickens are pets,” said Animal Control Officer Amy Ragusa.

Chickens also can be kept legally on commercial or agricultural properties within the city, Ragusa said.

City Engineer Jeremy Palm said the loophole exists for residents because the city’s ordinance doesn’t define what a “farm animal” is.

Palm said neighboring communities Ottawa, Peru and Pontiac don’t allow backyard chickens, but La Salle does, limiting residents to 10 chickens.

Ragusa and Palm advised if the council reconsiders its chicken ordinance it should restrict roosters and define the number of chickens allowed. The city likely will require chicken owners to have a permit.

Councilman Matt McMullen said he would like an ordinance also to define specifically the kind of coop allowed and its distance from other neighbors.

City Manager David Plyman said he can conduct a review of ordinances in other communities and present the council with ideas at its March committee of the whole meeting.

City officials said they would like to get ahead of chick sales at R.P. Home and Harvest, with Palm suggesting the city could have copies of its ordinance and permit applications ready at the store for anyone who purchases chicks.

Palm, who owns chickens, warned residents who are looking for a cheaper source of eggs, raising chickens is not cheap.

“The coop alone costs $500 and the feed is expensive,” Palm said. “You’re not going to save money.”

The city engineer said after Tuesday’s meeting he’ll be returning calls to a list of residents who are interested in owning their own chickens.

High egg prices prompted a Newton citizen to research the city's rules on keeping chickens within city limits and make a request to a city council member. After a presentation from city staff, it became clear the push from citizens was likely not strong enough to warrant a change in the city code. For every one acre of land, citizens can keep four chickens. But only if they meet other requirements, too.