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Backyard chickens are coming. A year-long effort waged by a dedicated group of chicken enthusiasts that began last September with the screening of a pro-chicken movie at the Main Branch of the Library resulted in a new ordinance allowing 20 chicken coops in the City. The vote took place early Tuesday morning, Sept. 28, 2010.
The arguments for and against had not changed since City Council first took up the measure in the Human Services Committee in May. Those favoring chickens cited sustainability, local food movements, chickens as pets being no different from cats or dogs, and the success of similar efforts in other cities. The only new factor cited was the recent salmonella outbreak in industrial chicken farms, which Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover said favored a movement by residents to raise their own eggs.
Likewise, the arguments against had not changed. Smell, noise, coyotes, rodents and the cost of enforcement were frequently cited. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, urged Council to consider foul fowl conditions,. She said, “I encourage you to think about the quality of life that will be offered to these birds.”
Council considered and rejected a provision that would have required all neighbors to agree to chicken coops. “We don’t require notice for dangerous dogs,” said Ald. Grover. Ald. Fiske disagreed, saying the acquiescence of neighbors was “absolutely necessary.” In the end, acquiescence requirements were removed.
Several tweaks were added. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, corrected several errors in which “hen” had been used instead of “coop.” He amended the coop license fee, increasing it from $10 to $50, and kept the 20-coop limit to the first year.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposed an automatic license revocation provision, under which anyone guilty of three violations would have the in coop license automatically revoked. Her amendment passed. She reluctantly agreed to support the measure as a whole, saying that she preferred the current underground chicken regime, calling it “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Chickens are in Evanston, she said, but “we don’t enforce the ordinance unless there’s a problem.”
After midnight, the measure finally came to a vote. It passed, 6-3, with Ald. Fiske and Aldermen Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, voting “no.” City Clerk Rodney Greene, a noted chicken opponent, scowled behind dark glasses he wore due to eye problems. A smattering of applause erupted from the few remaining chicken supporters in back of the darkening Council chambers.
It is now official: Chickens are here.