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Champaign City Council Reviews Allowing Hens For Egg Production

This photo taken Aug. 21, 2009 shows Barbara Palermo looking on while making remarks in her chicken coop in Salem, Ore.

This photo taken Aug. 21, 2009 shows Barbara Palermo looking on while making remarks in her chicken coop in Salem, Ore. Palermo has led the local fight for the right to raise chickens in her backyard. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The city of Champaign may follow the lead of other communities, like Urbana, by allowing residents to keep hens in their backyard for egg production.

It is a practice that has a lot of support, especially from people involved in sustainable farming.

Champaign currently prohibits residents from raising poultry in the city, but the city council begins a study session Tuesday night to evaluate the feasibility of changing that policy.

City Planner Lacey Rains Lowe said in preparation for that meeting, she has researched ordinances that allow residents to raise hens in other communities, like Evanston, just north of Chicago.

“They haven’t had a single complaint, which was pretty incredible,” Lowe said. “They of course restrict roosters, so that the noise issue is not a problem. They require a permit for the coop to be in place before chickens are allowed to be on the property. They have a minimum amount of square footage per chicken. Your feed must be in a predator proof container, which is essentially a container with a tight sealing lid so it doesn’t attract vermin.”

These are all things Lowe said the city can look at if it chooses to allow residents to raise chickens within the city.

Karen Carney wants to set up a chicken coop in the backyard of her home in Champaign.

“I’ve always been interested in trying to live as sustainably as possible,” she said.

Carney said while raising a few backyard chickens won't necessarily change the food industry, she believes it will help make food safer to eat.

“We’ve all heard those stories about chickens being kept in overcrowded cages and being susceptible to disease and this is just a much better life for the chicken and good eggs for your family,” Carney said.

Lowe said some major concerns that have been brought up about raising chickens in a residential neighborhood include odor issues, increased noise, and traffic generated by egg and meat sales.

The Champaign City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m.