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Geneva willing to consider allowing backyard chickens

Geneva aldermen are open to at least discussing whether residents should be allowed to raise chickens in their backyards.

They voted 10-0 Monday night to direct the city planner to write a proposed ordinance. Several made it clear, however, this doesn’t mean they have been convinced it is a good idea.

Alderman Jeanne McGowan is behind the proposal, saying residents have asked her to pursue the idea. She said her research has shown it can be a good activity for children, and that nearby towns that permit chickens have had few complaints about them.

City planner Chayton True said towns he checked with, including Naperville, Downers Grove, Batavia and St. Charles, have had few incidents, and most complaints were about loose chickens. For example, Downers Grove, which has allowed chickens since 2014, has had two complaints total, True said. The towns typically limit the number of chickens, prohibit roosters, and have rules about how far chicken coops must be from lot lines.

Geneva last discussed backyard chickens in 2012. In a straw poll at the time, the council split 5-5. Current Aldermen Craig Maladra and Richard Marks, who were on the council in 2012, were among the opponents.

Alderman Dean Kilburg, who is a retired sales manager for the poultry program at Ridley Inc., a company that sells nutritional supplements and feed to producers of meat, milk and poultry, said he is concerned about people getting salmonella from backyard chickens.

He likened backyard chickens to pets, especially since hens may live for eight years but lay eggs for only a few years. He said a disease outbreak that forced egg producers to kill millions of chickens in 2015 was traced to backyard flocks.

“There’s a lot of excellent pets people can have in their homes in a city. I don’t know if chickens should fall within the category,” he said.

Kilburg also was skeptical about the lack of complaints. “I know people in St. Charles who live adjacent (to chicken-raisers). They don’t complain because they don’t want to make an issue” with their neighbors, he said.

Despite his misgivings, Kilburg said Tuesday he might support an ordinance if it includes provisions he favors, such as requiring people to get approval from their neighbors, and prohibiting people from running extension cords to power coop heaters.

McGowan said that with proper practices, including washing their hands after handling chickens or their excrement, people can avoid getting salmonella infections from their chickens.

The proposed ordinance will be brought to a committee-of-the-whole meeting at an unspecified date.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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