Streator council to talk about allowing 6 backyard chickens

City manager suggests ordinance for council to consider

Newton citizens who live on one-acre parcels are able to keep four chickens on their property at a time. Rising egg prices have prompted a resident to request the ordinance be changed to allow smaller parcels access to livestock animals.

The Streator City Council will consider an ordinance allowing residents to raise up to six chickens.

The item scheduled for discussion 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, during a committee of the whole meeting at Streator City Hall, 204 S. Bloomington St., strictly is a discussion item. The council will not take a vote Tuesday, but may set its agenda for a future vote.

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.

Last month, City Engineer Jeremy Palm and Animal Control Officer Amy Ragusa told the City Council that residents have been asking about raising chickens.

No swine shall be kept in the city. Horses and other farm animals shall not be kept in any residential zones.

—  Streator City Code, 6.04.100

Although city code prohibits the raising of farm animals on residential properties, staff has allowed certain residents to raise up to three chickens, interpreting them to be pets.

The lack of clarity in the ordinance and the recent interest from residents led council members to ask City Manager David Plyman to draft an ordinance for them to consider.

Plyman said he reviewed about a dozen neighboring communities’ ordinances. Neighboring communities Ottawa, Peru and Pontiac don’t allow backyard chickens, but La Salle does, limiting residents to 10 chickens.

He recommended a permit be required to raise chickens, limiting the number of chickens to six and prohibiting roosters; prohibiting people who have been convicted of property maintenance, nuisance or animal violations within the past three years from getting permits; providing reasonable standards for coop and chicken runs; and keeping the coops at least 10 feet from property lines, 20 feet from neighboring homes and requiring screening by a privacy fence.

Plyman said the permit would terminate if the holder sells or moves their property. The ordinance also would prohibit raising chickens in multi-family residential, commercial or industrial zoning districts.

City officials said during the February Committee of the Whole meeting that 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.

The increased price of eggs is believed to be motivating some residents to seek the possibility of raising their own chickens. Palm, who owns chickens, warned residents who are looking for a cheaper source of eggs that raising chickens is not cheap. The coop alone is about $500, he told council members.

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.