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Chickens to roost in Evanston

Evanston aldermen voted 6-3 early this morning to allow residents to keep up to six hens in a backyard coop.

The vote capped a year of efforts by folks who like the idea of really fresh eggs to overturn a 1974 city ordinance that had banned the birds.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, was on the losing side of the chicken debate.

The the city ruffled the feathers of the chicken fanciers when Laurie Zoloth, a bioethics professor at Northwestern was hauled into the city’s administrative hearings court and fined for keeping chickens in her backyard a year ago this month.

The ordinance, as amended, will require people who want to keep chickens to pay a $50 license fee and keep the chickens under sanitary conditions in an enclosed coop that has to meet city rules for accessory structures on a building lot. They’d also have to provide notice to their neighbors of their plans to set up a coop. And the ordinance bans residents from keeping roosters — male chickens — because of the loud noise they make.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward; Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted against the ordinance.

Jean-Baptiste and Holmes said most constituents they spoke with about the ordinance opposed it — fearing the chickens would attract rodents, make a lot of noise and smell.

Fiske said she believes backyard chickens are a fad and that the city should require approval from neighbors before permitting a resident to keep them.

Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, offered several of the last-minute amendments to the ordinance that the council adopted. They included a provision that would let a city-wide limit of 20 coops expire after 12 months. He said that if problems develop with the chicken-keepers over the first year of the ordinance the aldermen could change the rules, but that assuming the program operates smoothly, there’s no long-term need for the cap on coops.

Related link

Pictures of dozens of chicken coop designs (BackyardChickens.com)

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