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City Approves Backyard Chicken Keeping Ordinance

Highland Park, Illinois –City Council approved an ordinance to amend current regulations regarding the keeping of chickens within City limits at the Regular Meeting of the Highland Park City Council on May 13, 2019. Residents interested in keeping chickens are required to obtain a chicken keeping permit and a building permit for the construction of a chicken coop from the City.  The amended ordinance allows residents to keep up to six hens on single-family residential properties. Hens must be confined to a chicken coop or an enclosed chicken run at all times. Coops must be set back a minimum of eight feet from all property lines and ten feet from principal occupied residences.

The ordinance also establishes a permit exception process for properties that can’t practically install a chicken coop within the eight foot setback requirement. The permit exception would be administratively approved based on conditions. There is also a permit exception process for properties which only have side yards and no designated rear-yard.

Staff conducted extensive research on chicken keeping prior to making a recommendation to City Council. Research involved a thorough review of local municipal ordinances allowing backyard chicken-keeping and consultations with State and Federal public health professionals.  The approved regulations closely model ordinances of Deerfield, Lake Bluff, and Evanston. Staff from these municipalities reported their regulations have adequately prevented concerns related to public nuisance and community well-being.

Chicken keeping permit applications will be made available on the City’s website by May 31. For additional information please see the FAQ below or contact the City Manager’s Office at 847.926.1000.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Am I eligible to keep chickens?

Chicken-keeping is permitted on single-family residential properties with eight foot setbacks from property lines and ten foot setbacks from occupied residences.  If you live on a single-family residential property, you are eligible to apply for a chicken-keeping permit from the City. 

How do I apply to keep chickens?

An application packet is available on the City’s website at www.cityhpil.com.  Please read the application materials carefully to make sure that you meet and have completed the necessary requirements. Applicants need to obtain a building permit for the construction of a chicken coop, register for a Livestock Premises ID from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and pay a chicken keeping permit fee.  Chicken-keeping permits must be renewed annually. 

What is a Livestock Premises ID and why do I need it?

The Livestock Premises program is a registry of chicken flocks throughout the State of Illinois.  It is a recommended measure for all flock owners regardless of whether they are raising chickens for livestock purposes or backyard egg production.  The registry is intended to protect flocks and flock owners in the case of a disease outbreak, and allows the Illinois Department of Agriculture to monitor the spread of disease and promptly notify flock owners if there is an outbreak in the area. All information is kept entirely confidential. It is a quick process that involves filling out an online form:  https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Animals/AnimalHealth/Pages/Premises-Registration.aspx.

Do I still need a building permit for my chicken coop if I buy a pre-fabricated coop?

Yes.  A chicken coop qualifies as an accessory structure in residential lots regardless of whether it is prefabricated or constructed by the resident.  In Highland Park, permits are required for all accessory structures.  Permitting fees vary, but are typically 1% of the construction costs plus a base permit fee of $100. Applicants may also be charged a fee for length of review and a tree permit. Please contact the City’s Building Division at 847.432.0808 for more information. 

Where can my chicken coop be located and what are the setback requirements?

Coops may only be located in the rear yard of a property, and must be set back a minimum of eight feet from all property lines and ten feet from principal residential structures, including the residence of the chicken owner. 

How can I install a chicken coop if my rear yard does not have space to install a chicken coop with an eight foot setback?

Property owners may apply for a permit exception to allow a chicken coop with a three foot set back from property lines. Permit exceptions will be administratively reviewed and considered by the City Manager. To apply for a permit exception, applicants must submit a written explanation regarding why a chicken coop can’t be installed on their property within an eight foot set back from property lines, must provide a photograph of the existing conditions of the rear-yard, and must provide an aerial photo or plat of survey depicting where the chicken coop is proposed to be installed. Under the permit exception, if an application is approved, a property owner may install a chicken coop with a three foot set back from property lines and must install screening along the side(s) of the chicken coop which encroaches into the required eight foot set back from the property line. There is no permit exception to locate a chicken coop within less than ten feet from a principal residential structure.

Can I install a chicken coop if my property does not have a designated rear-yard?

A permit exception process has been established for properties which do not have a designated rear-year. Should a property not have a designated rear-yard and only have side-yards, the applicant may apply for a permit exception which would be administratively reviewed and considered by the City Manager. Should a permit exception be approved, the City shall provide permission for a chicken coop to be constructed in the yard as designated by the City.

Are there any other requirements for chicken coops that I should know about?

Chicken coops must provide at least four (4) square feet per hen, and may not exceed eight (8) feet in height. Coops must also be strong enough to protect hens from predators and weather elements, including extreme temperatures.

How many chickens can I keep?

Residents may keep up to six (6) hens per property.

Are roosters allowed?

No. Roosters are prohibited.

Can I let my chickens roam around my backyard?

No. Chickens must be confined to a coop or an enclosed chicken run at all times. If you decide to include an enclosed chicken run in your coop design, it must still fall within the required setbacks and size requirements of chicken coops.

How will the City enforce backyard chicken keeping regulations?

The City requires that an inspection by a City inspector be completed for new applicants for backyard chicken keeping permits. Inspectors will ensure that chicken coops are in accordance with City Code.

Residents may report concerns regarding chicken coops to the Community Development Department by calling 847.432.0808 or the City Manager’s Office at 847.926.1000. The City will respond by conducting a field inspection of the complaint. 

Will backyard chickens create a lot of noise?

Laying hens, at their loudest, will be about as loud as human conversation. The setback requirements of ten feet from occupied residences and property lines should help to deter any noise associated with chickens.  The City has prohibited roosters, which are the most common cause of noise complaints related to chickens.

Will backyard chickens smell?

The City mandates that chicken owners maintain their chicken coops in a clean and sanitary condition at all times.  Cleanliness and proper sanitation practices, in combination with a required setback of ten feet from property lines and occupied residences, should prevent offensive odors from being reasonably detected by neighbors. If a resident has a concern regarding the cleanliness or odors of a chicken coop on a neighboring property, please contact the City Manager’s Office to discuss the matter at 847.926.1000.

Will backyard chickens attract more pests and wildlife to my neighborhood?

According to the USDA Wildlife Services Program, it is unlikely that backyard chickens will attract any more wildlife to a residential area than is already present.  It is important to keep in mind that wildlife are attracted to sources of shelter, food, and water. Residents are required to store any chicken feed in rodent- and wildlife-proof containers, and to ensure that coops are constructed of sturdy predator-proof and weather-resistant materials. The City additionally provides all flock owners with materials from the USDA Defend the Flock Program, which outline best practices for wildlife management.  These best practices include techniques for preventing access to coops, reducing access to water, and protecting food resources.

Can I get sick from backyard chickens?

The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported that health hazards associated with backyard chickens are generally limited to those in direct contact with the chickens or consuming their meat and/or eggs.  Health risks can be largely avoided by practicing proper hygiene and food safety when handling chickens or their eggs.  Some basic techniques to reduce health risks include washing hands before and after handling birds, keeping visitors to a minimum, wearing a designated pair of shoes and gloves when entering chicken coops, sanitizing supplies used to clean chicken coops, and monitoring birds for signs of illness. The City provides all flock owners with educational materials from the IDPH, the CDC, and the USDA regarding infectious diseases, food safety, and biosecurity to help ensure that chicken owners are well educated and informed.  

What should I do if I have more questions, or if I would like to report a concern about my neighbor’s chickens?

For more questions, or to report a concern, please contact the City Manager’s Office at cityhp@cityhpil.com or 847.926.1000.