Ellie Tackett, 8, in the foreground, tells Salem Lakes officials Monday why she should be allowed to raise chickens. Ellie said it has helped her with her socialization skills, while her sister Porter, 5, at left, said it helps calm her down, and their brother Avery, 9, (not shown) spoke about the educational benefits. 

The Salem Lakes Village Board is considering a less-restrictive chicken-keeping ordinance after more than 25 people — from toddlers to senior citizens — showed their support for such an ordinance Monday night.

Resident Peter Poli invited his neighbors to review a draft of the ordinance at 7 p.m. March 27 at Kelly’s Pub, 25827 Wilmot Road, Trevor.

Their suggestions will be shared with the Village Board.

Salem Lakes Administrator Mike Murdock said the goal is to create an ordinance that is in the best interests of the entire community and is enforceable.

While the village’s current ordinance allows residents with 2 acres or more to keep up to six hens, the new proposal would allow up to four hens on any size residential lot and up to 20 on 2 acres or more, under a permitted process.

If rules regarding coop and care standards are violated, the resident would lose the privilege of keeping chickens for two years.

“This has really been very educational for me,” trustee Dennis Faber said, adding he now is of the opinion that 2 acres is “very restrictive.”

Resident Sharon Pomaville said the 2-acre minimum requirement prevents 88 percent of Salem Lakes property owners from raising chickens.

She suggested allowing chickens to be kept on smaller lots under a pilot program.

“Let’s put together a really, really good ordinance that allows us to raise chickens and be self-sustaining,” Pomaville said, adding it can be reviewed after a year or two to see if changes are needed.

Trustee Ted Kmiec agreed that the current ordinance is too restrictive and said residents who have experience raising chickens should be involved in crafting the ordinance.

“We are a rural village, and I think if people want to have chickens they should have a right to have chickens,” he said.

Support for neighbors

Some residents came out Monday to support their neighbors.

“I personally do not want to raise chickens,” Carl Barsanti said. “However, if my neighbors want to raise chickens, I don’t have a problem with that. They’re not lethal.”

Michael Davis agreed.

“I don’t think it is right for me to tell my neighbors I don’t like their dog or I don’t like their chicken, therefore, they can’t have a dog or a chicken.”

Many said they moved to Salem Lakes for a more relaxed lifestyle and believe keeping chickens fits the rural character of the area.

“I moved out of the Chicago suburbs where they are allowed to have chickens,” Heather Deegan said. “I could be in the middle of downtown Chicago and have more chickens than I can have on a half-acre here.”

Jennifer Davis said she thought she was “moving out to a more relaxed, rural community.”

“I just feel this is unfair,” Davis said of the existing ordinance.

Children chime in

Avery Tackett, 9, whose family had been keeping chickens on their 1.77-acre property, cannot do so under the current ordinance.

“It helps me learn about animals, and it helps me learn where food comes from,” Avery said. “I’m not good at socializing at school. I like to talk to them a bit, and sometimes the chickens cluck right back at me.”

His sister Ellie, 8, said they like raising chickens for the eggs, and his sister Porter, 5, added, “I like chickens because they help me calm down.”

A show of hands late in the meeting showed no one objected to chickens being kept in the village.

“We can see that people want chickens,” Ron Gandt said.

Some opposition

However, there are some who disagree with the practice on smaller lots.

One resident provided information from the Illinois Department of Health about bacterial and respiratory diseases, the potential that chickens will attract predators and rodents, and other possible nuisance issues.

“The public health hazard potentially associated with urban chicken farming should be weighed against individual and community benefits,” the document reads. “Public health infectious disease hazards can be mitigated by education and regulation and are expected to be limited to those who are in contact with the chickens.”

Trustee Dan Campion said he is willing to listen, keep an open mind and take everyone’s comments into consideration. This includes being considerate of those who were not in attendance and may have differing opinions.

“How do we really make certain we are protecting everyone?” trustee Campion questioned. “That’s what we have on our shoulders.”