Homewood asked to OK backyard chickens
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent February 25, 2014 12:10AM
Homewood resident Karen Landin's daughter, Karsyn Tully, 11, with the Golden Buff hens, one of five breeds Landin raises on the family farm in Monee. Landin has been a resident of Homewood for 12 years, but can't raise her brood of 20 hens in Homewood. | Supplied photo
Updated: February 27, 2014 11:49AM
Homewood resident Rachael Bush Middleton says the name of the Hens for Homewood group is significant.
The group wants the village board to amend the ordinance against raising poultry to allow citizens to “own small flocks of hens,” Middleton said, but “no roosters. They’re too loud.”
Group members Middleton, Kate Duff and Jason Baldauf said the revised ordinance should include “common sense” rules necessary to prevent odor, predators and noise — frequent arguments against allowing backyard chicken coops but issues the group feels can be easily addressed.
“For a couple of years now, I thought how it would be a neat idea to have chickens just because of the whole sustainability factor and you know where your food is coming from,” Baldauf said. “There’s just a lot of benefits to it.”
Baldauf, 36, is a master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension Service. He said he has researched the chicken issue and that Hens for Homewood has had a great deal of support from the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts, a group that promotes keeping backyard chickens in the city.
Baldauf said objections to having chickens in urban or suburban settings are really non-issues because it’s permissible in Chicago and suburbs such as Naperville, Oak Park and Evanston. Hens for Homewood feels that raising chickens is in lockstep with Homewood’s stated goals of environmental stability and supporting local food.
“As a family, we produce a lot of food,” Middleton said. “I think people think it’s a little more avant garde (to raise chickens) than it really is.”
She views raising chickens for eggs as just another step in her family’s food production.
In 600 square feet of raised vegetable beds, Middleton said she does “a lot of intensive gardening” — producing strawberries, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions and “lots of garlic.”
She and her family — husband Adam, and children, Carter, 13, and Evelyn, 10 — also pick fruit at other sites that Middleton cans and cooks in recipes for family and friends.
The Middletons are prepared to house hens in a nearly 100-year-old barn original to their house. With about four hens, Middleton said she could use their eggs and also their droppings for fertilizer and the hens themselves to devour insects in her garden.
Baldauf, who on Jan. 7 created a Hens for Homewood Facebook page, said 50 to 60 “likes” initially overnight was a strong indication that people are in support of backyard chickens in Homewood.
“It just blew up from there,” he said. “Within a week it got to over 200 people.”
Hens for Homewood presented its request at a January village board meeting. Baldauf said the group’s biggest hurdle was overcome when Mayor Rich Hofeld agreed to put the item on the agenda of a future board meeting.
“As far as convincing people, the hardest part was even convincing them to look at the ordinance, in my mind,” he said.
Duff, co-owner of Homewood Kitchen Gardens, said raising hens would “complement what I do, sustainable living. It’s kind of completing the whole ecological cycle on a small backyard scale.”
Duff called the original Jan. 7 meeting of Hens for Homewood after speaking to “about 15 to 20 people who actively expressed interest” in raising hens.
She’s convinced that as people learn more about having chickens in a backyard setting, they won’t object to it, and “there’s probably only a handful of people who will actually get chickens.”