A Woodstock woman may ruffle some feathers as she seeks to allow backyard chickens within city limits.
Like many area municipalities, the city of Woodstock does not allow residents in nonagricultural areas to keep chickens in their yards, treating them like other farmyard animals. But a burgeoning urban chicken movement has led some Chicago suburbs to allow people to keep chickens for pets and eggs.
Maggie Buchar started a Facebook page, “Backyard Hens For Woodstock, IL” in October in hopes of rallying other like-minded residents to flock to the cause. She said the response has been positive.
When Buchar contemplated moving from Crystal Lake to Woodstock two years ago, one of her requirements was the freedom to raise a few backyard hens. Her family put their house on the market, and it sold within a week. On the downside for Buchar’s family, though, it forced them to move quickly to find a house.
Buchar said they bought a great home in Woodstock, but after they moved, she discovered a Woodstock city ordinance prohibiting housing farm animals, including fowl of any kind.
“I figured that Woodstock was more ‘farmy’ than Crystal Lake,” she said.
So Buchar began looking into it and discovered a significant number of nearby communities have adjusted their ordinances to allow residents to raise hens, including Burr Ridge, Downers Grove, Naperville, Oak Brook and St. Charles.
“Many of these are bigger, more suburban cities than Woodstock,” said Buchar.
Elgin adopted an ordinance last year after completing an 18-month pilot program, and more recently, Elburn has begun allowing residents to raise chickens. The programs typically require a permit to house chickens, limiting the number of birds and excluding roosters, who are known for their loud, early-morning crows.
Buchar said she plans to provide information, gather support and prepare a presentation to bring before the Woodstock City Council. She hopes the city will allow people to own a limited number of backyard hens at single-family homes in Woodstock which are not zoned for agriculture.
“The movement has been growing,” she said. “I plan to share some facts about chickens and present some common questions and myths about them.”
She believes some of the benefits include fresh eggs, a reduction in insect populations, the production of nitrogen-rich fertilizer and companionship. As for noise concerns, she said a hen’s cluck registers about 60 to 70 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to human conversation and softer than a dog’s bark.
Woodstock Building and Zoning Director Joe Napolitano said in the four years he’s held that position, no one has challenged the ordinance that prohibits fowl.
“People move to the suburbs to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” Napolitano said. “If they want farm animals, there are plenty of places available very nearby.”
If the ordinance is questioned, Napolitano said it would be brought to the city’s Plan Commission to discuss and make a recommendation to the City Council based on the commission’s findings. One of the things the commission would look at, he said, is what other towns are doing.
Buchar said she is continuing to research in preparation for making a presentation to the council. She has plans to meet with the person who spearheaded the campaign in Elburn.
“I want to get all my ducks, er, chickens, in a row first,” she said.