Tiffany Pankow is worried. At her home in Wheatland Township, Pankow and her four children are concerned about a county ordinance that prohibits them from keeping their chickens, which Pankow said her children raised from just two days old.
“We first started the coop for my daughter Peace, 8, who has severe learning disabilities,” Pankow said. “She was held back a year in school and struggles to make it through every school day.”
Pankow said Peace used to be angry and frustrated, and the behavioral problem was severe enough that she was beginning to look into special schools to give her the support she needed.
“Peace has always had a gift with animals, however, so we began the coop to give her a place of comfort she could come home to after school.”
Today, Pankow says her daughter is dramatically changed by the experience.
“Peace is a completely different girl. she spends hours—yes, literally, hours—a day tending to her chickens, ensuring they are fed and watered and often just spending time with them,” Pankow explained. “They have, I believe, given her a sense of accomplishment and responsibility in addition to the comfort and stability she desperately needed.”
Pankow said that the care her daughter shows the chicks has extended to her siblings as well.
“Instead of hitting her four-year-old sister out of frustration, she takes her by the hand to help her and kneels down to speak to her,“ she said.
But as helpful as the chickens may be, they are against the law in her Wheatland Township home, and county officials have written to Pankow, giving her 14 days to get rid of the chickens. that deadline comes next week.
“I know that, though this will be very difficult, my other three children will eventually be ok, but I truly don’t believe my daughter Peace will ever recover,” Pankow said. “We will do anything to get laws passed or be able to get a special use permit to allow us to keep our chickens.”
They may not have to do much at all.
The will County Board is looking to provide for situations like that of the Pankows’ through an ordinance its members drafted this week.
Board member and Plainfield Township Supervisor John Argoudelis is all for the poultry plan.
“As a farmer I’ve personally been interested in doing so for several years,” he said.
According to the draft, the keeping of chickens may be approved as a special use in the R-1 and R-2 districts (see the special use procedures of Sec. 155-16.40). In R-2A, R-3 and R-4 districts, under similar special use guidelines, the number of chickens would be limited to one per 2,500 square feet of lot area. no roosters would be allowed.
The ordinance is up for approval by the will County Board on July 19.
Backyard chicken farming is a movement that has been gaining strength and support in neighborhoods across the area. a throwback to an earlier era, made popular again by the popularity of organic foods and sustainable living, the idea of having a chicken coop alongside the swing set and the trampoline is becoming more and more acceptable in the suburbs.
The push for raising chickens in residential neighborhoods is gaining strength across the county and the country. Locally, there are residents arguing their rights to raise poultry in the backyard in Wheatland Township, Plainfield Township, Oswego and Crest Hill. There’s even a Facebook Page, “The Chicken Revolution,” dedicated to the local cause. On the page, members post their own comments, link to articles about local legislation and connect with chicken farmers from across the country fighting their own battles for residential coops.
Already, cities and villages such as Naperville, Evanston and St. Charles allow residents to keep chickens on their property. Most allow for between 10 and 20 hens, no roosters to wake neighbors at dawn and regulations exist to dictate the size of the coop, storage of supplies, and location on the property.
The issue came up within the village limits of Plainfield earlier this month, when village trustee Jim Racich argued the merits of chicken farming on behalf of a local resident, who despite current regulations disallowing it, has been raising chickens in his yard.
“It’s healthy, it’s organic,” Racich told his fellow board members Monday. “One could argue that it’s educational.”
The idea seemed well-received by the members of the Village Board, and Racich now is seeking a community response to the idea. the community can offer input at .
“I see the value to limited farming,” Racich said. “I did it as a child on a much larger scale and was enriched by the experience.”
Argoudelis called Racich’s plea “forward thinking.”
Village Planner Michael Garrigan said the village is strongly considering a change in the ordinance, which has been in place since 1961, and was re-adopted in 1998 and in 2008. the reason for the consideration in the change, Garrigan said, relates to the growth in the organic movement and back to earth movements that emphasize the importance of creating a local food industry that is locally accessible.
“Many communities permit chickens in residential zoning districts based on the realization that providing fresh and organic produce to residents is an important goal for a community,” he said. “I think it reflects the growing importance of healthy living and the growth of the organic industry.”