Chicken rules vary in area

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Aaron Hall (left) holds Beardo and his wife Emily Hall holds Specks while they stand in front of their chicken coop/run combo. The couple has been raising the hens on their Winnebago County property just outside of Rockton for a little over a year as pets, but having fresh eggs almost every day is a "benefit" they say.

ROSCOE — Aaron Hall remembers picking up his chickens when they were just a day old; the silky banthams arrived at the post office in a box.

“It was pretty funny to go to the post office and hear a box go ‘cheep cheep cheep’,” Hall said with a laugh.

Aaron Hall and his wife, Emily, have been raising chickens for a little over a year now. Their one acre property sits just outside Rockton in Winnebago County in an agricultural zoned area, so the pair were excited to be able to raise the hens on their property.

The Halls are among a growing population of people who keep chickens in a non-farm setting, and a group of residents in Roscoe is asking the village to consider putting an ordinance on the books.

Currently there is no legislation, but at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Wednesday night, the board held a public hearing on an ordinance that would allow residents to have up to six hens in a well-maintained cage. The board tied the vote, which means a no vote, but the residents may bring their case to the village’s Zoning Committee, said Chairman Jay Durstock of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ordinance came up when the group of well-organized citizens approached the village and presented the case in favor of allowing village residents to own chickens, Durstock said.

Some board members had concerns that there would be noise or smell issues, Durstock said. Although he hasn’t heard any opposition from community members, he wasn’t sure that residents knew this was something being considered.

“The information is not always put out to the public and I think some people in higher end or middle end neighborhoods, if they knew what was happening, there would be quite a bit of opposition,” Durstock said.

Durstock voted against the ordinance because the village allows for people to have RVs, playground equipment, dog runs, trampolines and other large items. He said he understood the educational value, but recommended allowing people to own chickens on property outside the village.

“I don’t want to pick on anyone’s lifestyle, but when you add all things together, the last thing we need is chicken coops also in backyards,” Durstock said. “I personally don’t want to look out my back door in my subdivisions and see a bunch of chicken coops lined up.”

Board member Kathy Erickson, who voted in favor of the ordinance, disagreed. When the group appealed to the board, she said she knew very little about owning chickens, but after doing the research the board asked its members to do, she voted in favor.

“They’re very clean and they don’t get loud. It’s not like they’re doing 25 chickens, just four to six and there would be no roosters,” Erickson said.

Erickson said she felt the pros outweighed the cons. For example, raising chickens can be an educational opportunity for kids who don’t live on farms and grow up learning about where food comes from. She also said she couldn’t vote against the ordinance when people are allowed to have dog runs.

“People have dogs and kennels and dogs are noisy and can stink,” she said. “And if we allow that then why shouldn’t we allow chickens if they’re clean and don’t bark.”

Area villages and cities have taken different approaches to regulating the raising of chickens.

South Beloit does not allow chickens according to an ordinance that lumps them with other typical farm animals that the city deems a nuisance, according to its code Sec. 10-2.

Beloit allows residents to own up to four females chickens — no roosters — at a single-family residence, according to Ordinance 7.244. Permits are required for backyard chicken raising in Beloit. Residents must keep their chickens in the coop at night and between sunrise and sunset, but may allow them to roam free in a chicken run, or a fenced in cage. Both must be kept clean.

In neighboring Rockton, the village allows for its residents to have up to five domesticated animals per household, which could include a mixture of chickens and other pets like dogs or cats. Their living area must be kept clean and odor-free.

Back just outside of Rockton, the Halls say they’re happy they decided to get chickens. Besides the benefit of getting one or two fresh eggs per day, it’s fun just watching their pets wander around and interacting.

“When they’re all pecking around and eating worms they all complain to each other,” Aaron Hall said. “It’s like a group of old women walking around. It’s really great.”

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