Chicken regulations in Naperville

More suburbs have had to deal with this issue in recent years: should suburbanites be allowed to keep chickens? Here is the latest from Naperville:

The majority of Naperville council members voted Tuesday to make no changes to an existing ordinance that governs the keeping of fowl in the city, which states the birds must be kept 25 feet from neighboring homes and cleaned regularly.

City staff presented a proposal Tuesday that would place further regulation on chicken coop keepers, requiring them to obtain a permit for the birds and construct larger perimeters around the livestock. But council members opted to maintain the status quo that has regulated chicken ownership for years…

While both residents — neighbors, in fact — who spoke during public forum were on opposite sides of the fence on the issue, they agreed the council’s decision came as a surprise…

But the council’s decision has no effect on those who live in subdivisions, some of which have their own bylaws that govern the keeping of livestock.

While the article suggests at the end that there are only a few formal complaints about this a year, I suspect this is an issue that will continue to pop up. This is a classic NIMBY issue: will nearby property values decrease if a neighbor keeps chickens? It is also interesting to note that Naperville’s guidelines don’t apply to subdivisions, presumably because they have Homeowner’s Associations that already tackle this issue. (Naperville has an unusual number of HOAs – noted builder Harold Moser helped pioneer this in the city.)

This reminds me of My Blue Heaven, a study of the working class Los Angeles suburb of South Gate. In the early days of this suburb, it was common for residents to own animals and build their own homes. I suspect this sort of activity would not go over well in more middle or upper class suburbs.

If you are curious, here is what Naperville’s municipal code says about “fowl and livestock”:

1. Housing: All fowl and livestock shall be kept within a pen, coop, building or other enclosure sufficient in size and strength to confine such animals to the owner’s property, except that livestock may be tethered securely to a fixed object outside the enclosure, but only if the animal is so confined to the owner’s property.

2. Zoning: Fowl and livestock may be kept in any area in the City except as otherwise provided by this Chapter or the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

3. Restrictions:

3.1. No livestock shall be kept, housed, maintained or pastured within a distance of two hundred (200) feet of any occupied residence other than that of the owner.

3.2. No pen, coop, building or other enclosure used for the purpose of housing fowl (with the exception of homing pigeons) shall be erected or maintained within twenty-five (25) feet of any occupied residence other than that of the owner.

3.3. Every person maintaining a pen, coop, building, yard or enclosure for fowl or livestock shall keep such area clean, sanitary and free from all refuse. Such areas shall be thoroughly swept at least once every twenty-four (24) hours and the dirt and refuse shall be disposed in a clean and sanitary fashion.

3.4. All feed for fowl or livestock shall be kept in containers that are rodent-proof until put out for consumption of fowl or livestock.

Another report suggests Naperville is somewhat unusual in not regulating this issue more closely:

Homeowners on both sides of Laird’s Rivanna Court property are urging the Naperville City Council to re-examine a decades-old city law that puts no limits on the number of chickens one can have, as long as the pen is cleaned once every 24 hours and is kept at least 25 feet from neighboring homes.

Naperville is one of a few municipalities — including St. Charles, Batavia, Oak Park and Chicago — that allow residents, with a few conditions, to raise chickens at home. But in an email to council members, Laird’s neighbors stressed the city is “no longer a rural farming community but residential with nice homes and smaller backyards.”

I wonder if this is one of those issues in Naperville where formal regulations are unnecessary as social pressure would keep too many people from having chickens. One resident in the story suggests that his chicken coop was opened at night by others. I would guess that could be a lot of disapproving glances and talk if someone started building a chicken house.

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