A collection of documents to support the addition of a chicken-friendly ordinance in Brookfield, Illinois.

Presented to the Village of Brookfield by Alana Waters-Piper


There are many citizens of the Village of Brookfield who are already keeping or want to raise chickens peacefully with the Village’s support. Enclosed is a collection of documents to support this cause as well as aid to disspell many common myths associated with the raising of backyard chickens in an urban environment.

Did you know that hens don’t crow, or need roosters to lay eggs?  Or that chickens produce 88% less waste than dogs?  In light of the recent chicken discussion in Brookfield, there are many misconceptions regarding “backyard chickens” that should be dispelled.  People have been keeping chickens in cities for centuries because of the many benefits.  For this reason, the Village of Brookfield should adopt an ordinance allowing 4 hens per household.

When I look around our Village, I see a community that wants to embrace green practices and has the potential to earn a great reputation as such.  We are surrounded by beautiful forest preserves, provide a fabulous Farmers Market, have an active gardening club, and many citizens have installed rain barrels. Brookfield IS a green community and enabling our citizens to include the raising of backyard hens just makes sense as an extension of these practices.

A family can benefit greatly from raising chickens.  Homegrown eggs are without hormones or chemicals, are higher in nutrients, lower in cholesterol, and taste 10 times better than store-bought eggs. Chicken manure makes excellent fertilizer, chickens reduce food waste, and they provide weed and insect control.

Certainly an argument may be made that organic eggs are readily available at many grocery stores. The same may be said for tomatoes. The counter to this claim is that there is much joy to be found in being closer to your food source. Being in your own yard, planting seeds in the earth, nurturing that plant to produce fruit. Additionally, the regulations surrounding the claim of “organic” are very loose and in many cases those chickens are raised in environments no better than the corporate enclosures seen in documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” (A must-see for anyone interested in this topic.) There are those of us who believe that it is a good deed to raise these animals as loved pets and enjoy the eggs they provide. We feel better about culling food from our backyard hens rather than contributing to the system of corporate chicken farming, especially in light of the facts surrounding the recent salmonila outbreak.

Despite these benefits, some are hesitant to allow chickens in the Village limits.  One argument is “They stink.”  While this may be true on farms with many chickens, a backyard coop housing four hens doesn’t create odor issues.  The Village has ordinances preventing the cat or dog owners from allowing the pet’s waste to accumulate, and so too would a chicken ordinance require proper disposal of fecal matter—specifically that coops be kept clean, sanitary, and free from standing water.

A second argument against chickens is “They’re noisy.”  Many are familiar with the rooster’s “Cock-a-doodle-doo” call.  Hens, however, are a different story, making soft clucking sounds that are quieter than dogs barking and even many wild birds.  If hens were to become a noise problem, it would likely mean they’re being neglected.  Like any pet-owner, if someone neglects their animals, they’d be required to forfeit them.

“There are reasons people live in the city, and reasons people live in the country,” is another argument of those against chickens. This defense doesn’t consider that many people don’t have the means to live in the country.  Buying a country home is a dream of many, but is not practical, especially during troubled economic times.  Besides, people don’t move to the city to get away from animals, or to lose their connection with where their food comes from.  If this were the case, no one would hang birdfeeders or plant vegetable gardens in their backyards.  People live in cities because they’re close to jobs, housing is more affordable, and there’s a feeling of security that comes from having close neighbors.  I’ve never heard anyone say they moved to the city to get away from chickens.

Brookfield  already has ordinances in place regarding cats and dogs that would work just as well for chickens.  For example, a dog is considered to be “running at large” if it’s off the owner’s premises and not under immediate control.  The same would apply to chickens if they were allowed to roam free in the Village.  The city could also require anyone wishing to house chickens to buy a permit.  This would ensure that only those serious about owning chickens would apply, and would also generate extra revenue for Brookfield as well as generate a lot of positive publicity for the Village as being a progressive community and thus, a more desirable location to live. Studies have shown that more progressive, “green-friendly” communities tend to have higher property values and be much sought after by higher income families.

A prohibitive ordinance banning chickens is an unfair intrusion into the lives of good, hard-working citizens.  If an ordinance is created allowing four hens per household, kept in clean, enclosed areas, it will protect neighbors from any possible nuisance.  It’s important that those concerned about the potential chicken ban speak with city officials about this issue.  Pet chickens enrich family life, teach our children responsibility, provide eggs, and are just plain fun.  

“Raising poultry within an urban setting provides eggs, fertilizer, garden help and meat with a minimal environmental footprint. Having suffered decades of disconnection from our food, bringing the farm (and in this case animals) into the city, can provide a much-needed dose of agriculture and food awareness. It's this very disconnection that has allowed for the appalling conditions now found in factory egg and chicken barns.”

I would encourage you to please read the accompanying pdf “16509728-Changing-Your-Citys-Chicken-Laws” which contains an extremely detailed look at some of the myths and concerns surrounding this topic in other communities.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter. I am excited to be part of this change and hope Brookfield takes the next step toward being a progressive and green community!


Backyard Chickens Make Unexpected
Bug Control

Chickens in the backyard offer more than eggs!

As Jasmin wrote before, keeping backyard chickens is a complete joy—but it's not just about fresh eggs and companionship. If managed well, chickens can become a vital part of your garden as an ecosystem, making use of waste food or spoiled crops, producing fresh manure for the compost heap, and perhaps most pleasantly—providing a natural form of bug control.

Most notably, my chickens seem to LOVE Japanese beetles—and I do mean love them! As I noted yesterday, my strawberries have been devastated this year by a plague of the shiny, green little monsters. So every morning I go out with a paper bag, shake the plants so the beetles drop in the bag (they are dozy little buggers first thing in the morning), and then go let the chickens out. As soon as I rip open the paper bag and place it in front of the ladies, a frenzy ensues.

I'm not sure that my efforts with a bag and some hens will be enough to save my strawberries this year—but it does make the loss of these plants so much easier to deal with. After all, now when I see a beetle, I don't just think "pest." I also see "free food." If you think about it, I'm now eating scrambled Japanese beetles for breakfast. It's a funny old world...

For those looking to take up keeping chickens, but are worried about the hassle—why not take a look at some of the ultra-modern critter-proof coop designs out there, like Omlet's Eglu chicken coop—in some areas it even comes with chickens included.

Backyard Chickens:
Biological Garbage Disposals

Chickens eat almost everything.

I've written before about how my
backyard chickens turn my compost for me, and even provide an excellent form of bug control. (Chickens love Japanese beetles!) But aside from these joys (and fresh eggs of course!), one of my favorite things about keeping chickens is the sheer lack of waste in our household.

I knew chickens would eat some kitchen scraps, but the amount they can eat is amazing! We almost never scrape waste food into the trash anymore - it either goes into the compost, or straight off the back porch. As a bonus, we then get to watch the chickens battle it out over our leftover spaghetti, tomatoes (they love anything red!), spuds, bread, etc. As chickens are naturally omnivorous, we also include the occasional bits of meat or fish - though we pretty much draw the line at chicken.

You shouldn't feed chickens visibly moldy or off foods, as this can cause illness, but other than that I have yet to find much they won't eat. We've even seen them gobbling up small frogs, lizards and snakes in the backyard!

The result is free chicken food from a waste resource, which will ultimately become eggs and/or poop for the garden, and in the process we get to reduce the amount of trash going to landfill. Because we live out in the country and don't have regular trash collections, this is an added bonus for us. The less organic waste you have in your trash, the less it stinks, and the longer you can leave it between trips to the dump.

It's a win-win situation all round. And I'm sure the chickens would agree. If you're interested in introducing chickens to your garden, check out Jasmin's primer on resources for backyard chicken keeping.

Backyard Chickens -
Advantages You Should Consider

Are you considering getting some backyard chickens this fall?  The past time of raising and taking care of one's own chickens has been a growing trend over the last few years.  What are the advantages of having chickens at home?
  The first reason most often repeated by chicken-raising enthusiasts is that of the delicious tasting and nutritionally dense fresh eggs.  Clocking in at less than 70 calories, a cooked egg can be a diet healthy option.  Eggs actually contain all the essential protein, minerals and vitamins your body needs, except Vitamin C.  (So be sure you have a glass of orange juice with breakfast so you are starting the day out on the right foot!)  Choline, the newest member of the vitamin B family, is found in eggs and is a big brain booster.  No wonder they call it the "incredible egg."  Raising your own chickens is going to give you more than enough of these nutrition powerhouses, as one single hen can lay up to 250 eggs in one year!  Another advantage of owning your own backyard chickens is that they are friendly and make fun pets.  What was the last thing your cat or dog really did for you?  Not only can pet chickens give you fresh eggs they can also help impart valuable life lessons to your children.  Watching a baby chick hatch out of an egg will certainly be a thrill your child won't soon forget.  Children can be taught responsibility when they are assigned to feed and water the chickens, as well as clean out the coop.  The pay off, of course, is allowing them to gather up their very own eggs for breakfast.  One taste of those fresh eggs and they will know that hard work pays off.

Chickens can also be a great way to control the bug population in your yard without the need for nasty chemical sprays and poisons.  Chickens love to peck around and find tasty things like slugs, worms and fly eggs.  Backyard chickens also love to eat seeds, which includes the seeds of weeds.  It's like having your own automated weed whacker!  Allowing your chickens to peck the yard in fall will show results come spring, with less weeds then ever popping up.  What an easy way to reduce bugs and weeds—all in one cute pet sized clucker!
  Backyard chickens are so easy to maintain and are so cost effective you are sure to wonder why you didn't buy them sooner.  Their droppings even make the best fertilizer for those interested in growing their own gardens, and their clawing for bugs actually helps aerate the soil.  Having chickens is also the perfect conversation starter.  Imagine telling someone your hobbies and including raising chickens in your own backyard.  That is sure to get the conversation going.

Whatever your reason for having chickens at home, you are sure to find many new advantages to owning them.  Start your new hobby by talking to someone knowledgeable about chicken farming.

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U.S. City Dwellers Flock to Raising Chickens

by Ben Block on October 6, 2008

At July’s Tour De Coop, about 600 people visit, on average, 17 backyard chicken farms in Portland, Oregon, during the annual event organized by urban agriculture group Growing Gardens.

In the backyard of a suburban home in Denver, Colorado, 22 chickens are hiding out from the law.

They arrived when a member of BackyardChickens, an online forum, ordered the birds in the mail this past May. "I actually get my chicks in today hopefully, and I am worried that animal control will be at the post office waiting for me with hand-cuffs," the new poultry farmer wrote.

An underground "urban chicken" movement has swept across the United States in recent years. Cities such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Madison, Wisconsin, are known to have had chickens residing illegally behind city fences.

But grassroots campaigns, often inspired by the expanding movement to buy locally produced food, are leading municipalities to allow limited numbers of hens within city limits.

Cities such as Anne Arbor, Michigan; Ft. Collins, Colorado; and South Portland, Maine have all voted in the past year to allow residents to raise backyard poultry. "It's a serious issue - it's no yolk," said Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin, when his city reversed its poultry ban in 2004. "Chickens are really bringing us together as a community. For too long they've been cooped up."

Raising backyard chickens is an extension of an urban farming movement that has gained popularity nationwide. Home-raised livestock or agriculture avoids the energy usage and carbon emissions typically associated with transporting food.

"Fresh is not what you buy at the grocery store. Fresh is when you go into your backyard, put it in your bag, and eat it," said Carol-Ann Sayle, co-owner of five-acre (two-hectare) farm in Austin, Texas, located within walking distance from the state capitol. "Everyone should have their own henhouse in their own backyard."

"Buying local" also provides an alternative to factory farms that pollute local ecosystems with significant amounts of animal waste - which can at times exceed the waste from a small U.S. city, a government report revealed last month. In the United States alone, industrial livestock production generates 500 million tons of manure every year. The waste also emits potent greenhouse gases, especially methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, advocates insist that birds raised on a small scale are less likely to carry diseases than factory-farmed poultry, although some public health officials are concerned that backyard chickens could elevate avian flu risks.

Chicken: The ‘Buy Local' Mascot

After the trend first gained popularity in London, England, with the invention of the "eglu" chicken house about ten years ago, large numbers of city dwellers began to raise chickens in the U.S. cities of Seattle and Portland, said Jac Smit, president of the Urban Agriculture Network. "It's no longer something kinky or interesting," Smit said. "The ‘chicken underground' has really spread so widely and has so much support."

Within the past five years, the trend has expanded to cities where raising hens was already legal, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. "Chicken has become the symbol, a mascot even, of the local food movement," said Owen Taylor of New York City, who knows of at least 30 community gardens that raise poultry, mostly for their eggs. One Brooklyn home has raised upward of 50 hens. "We're the biggest city in the country, so to have it here I think blows people's minds."

K.T. LaBadie, a University of New Mexico graduate student, was born into a family that grew its own fruits and vegetables. So when she moved to Albuquerque and met a friend who was raising his own chickens, poultry was a logical progression in her own home. She began with two hens, and now she has four.

"It felt like a good compliment to our backyard gardening. We get compost from the chickens that goes back into the vegetable beds," LaBadie said. "And there's really nothing better than harvesting tomatoes and peppers from your garden and being able to make an omelet with it using a meal that was based in your backyard."

The spread of backyard chickens has promoted spin-off businesses that cater to the local market. Some communities are relying on mobile slaughterhouses to manage and distribute the poultry meat, according to Smit. "It's no longer huge slaughterhouses doing millions [of birds]. It's a guy driving around on a truck, visiting neighborhood to neighborhood," he said. "And it's not chickens only.... Duck, turkey, and quail are particularly attractive."

In Portland, Oregon, residents have organized a farming cooperative [video] to raise hens for egg production. "The money is used to maintain the cooperative. It's not necessarily organized to be a profit-sharing venture," said Debra Lippoldt, executive director of Growing Gardens, a Portland urban agriculture advocacy group.

Public Health Concerns

If avian influenza eventually evolves to infect humans, experts fear that backyard chickens will be vectors of the disease. Government officials have threatened to ban free-range chickens in cities in Thailand, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, where bird flu has spread in the past. Governments around the world are also concerned that wild fowl will infect backyard chickens, leading to calls for similar bans in the Canadian province of British Columbia and in Australia.

But several public health officials argue that homegrown poultry are not a disease threat if the chickens are properly maintained. "Make sure the roof of the pen has a solid cover to protect birds from fecal matter that may drop from birds flying overhead," said University of California at Davis poultry specialist Francine Bradley in a statement released in 2005, at the peak of avian flu concerns. "We always tell people, don't let anyone near your birds who doesn't need to be there [due to fears of people carrying the virus]."

Sustainable farming advocates insist that backyard chickens are less of a concern than factory-farmed poultry, which the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has said poses serious risks of transmitting animal-borne diseases to human populations, especially due to the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance.

"When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem," the international sustainable agriculture organization GRAIN concluded in a 2006 report.

For urban poultry farmers, a more relevant health issue is whether the chickens, which many owners consider to be pets, can survive urban wildlife, even in New York City. "It's awful how often flocks are decimated by raccoons or hawks or possums," said Owen Taylor, who runs the City Farms livestock program, an extension of the sustainable food organization Just Food.

As the backyard chicken movement spreads, urban farmers are finding new ways of experiencing city living, whether their chickens are pets or dinner. "Raising chickens on a backyard stoop, especially if you have children, is agreeable," Smit said. "How you convince the kids you'll cut its neck and eat it is another thing."

Eight benefits of raising backyard chickens

January 18th, 2009 12:38 pm ET

Eggs from backyard chickens are more nutritious
and tastier than store-bought eggs.

Even before the so-called free-range or organic eggs in the grocery store hit $4 a dozen, thousands of people around the country were discovering the benefits of raising their own backyard chickens.

Besides the obvious benefit of a regular supply of eggs, here are eight benefits of starting your own backyard flock.

1) Eggs from well-tended backyard chickens are healthier. Factory farmed chickens live their lives without ever touching the soil or being allowed to hunt and peck for bugs. They are fed an unnatural and unvaried diet. These environmental conditions are designed to produce eggs quickly and cheaply in the factory farm. But the result is an egg that is less nutritious than eggs produced by chickens allowed to exercise, peck for bugs and engage in their natural chicken-y behavior.

In contrast to factory farm eggs, eggs from backyard chickens have 25 percent more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A and 75 percent more beta carotene. They also have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than factory farmed eggs.

2) Eggs from backyard chickens are tastier. Eggs purchased in the grocery store can be days—even weeks—old. As these eggs age, air seeps into the naturally porous eggshell, degrading not just the nutrition, but also the taste and affecting the consistency of the egg.

Fresh eggs from backyard chickens have firmer whites and bright orange yolks. (That’s the beta carotene). But the real difference is in the taste. Backyard chicken eggs have a more robust taste that is difficult to describe.


Raising backyard chickens teaches children about
responsibility and the origins or their food.

3) Chicken droppings enrich your compost. Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen. Added to the compost bin they add more nitrogen and improve your compost.

4) Chickens provide natural insect control. As they hunt and peck around the yard, chickens gobble up grubs, earwigs and other bugs, treating our garden pests as tasty, nutritious treats.

5) Their scratching for bugs is good for the soil. Chickens are enthusiastic foragers and will scratch around in the leaves and soil searching for the tastiest morsels. As they do, they aerate the soil and break down larger pieces of vegetation with their sharp talons, accelerating the decomposition process.

Backyard chickens are funny and interesting. And
chicken stories make great conversation starters.

6) Chickens are a great way to meet people and start conversations. People are naturally curious about folks who raise chickens. From brief conversations with the grocery store clerk curious about why I am buying a case of generic corn to fancy dress ball affairs when I describe my hobbies, chicken-talk is fun. People ask genuinely interested questions. (Most frequent question: Do you have to have roosters to get eggs? Answer: No.)

In addition, an amazing number of people I have met enthusiastically exclaim “I have always wanted to have chickens!” I’m not sure just what primordial urge is calling all of us to gather little feathered flock, but I suspect a yearning for a simpler time when we were more connected with nature and our food is part of it.

7) Chickens are fun and interesting. Every chicken has a personality—and lots of it. They aren’t particularly smart, but when properly socialized, chickens can be very friendly and even do tricks.

My chickens will come running from the other side of our property when they hear me call “Where are my chickens?” My hens will jump on my lap and let me pet them. The roosters engage in crowing contests. They all make me smile whenever I see them.

8) Backyard chickens provide lessons for children about responsibility and where food comes from. Tending chickens is pleasurable and even easier than caring for a dog. There is no walking the chickens or even giving them a bath. But chickens do require daily food and fresh water. The coop must be cleaned and the chickens inspected regularly to ensure they are healthy. Children can participate in all of these chicken-related chores.

Of course, the eggs must also be collected daily. The average laying hen will product about 300 eggs a year, but production depends much on the breed and the environment. The happier the hens, the more they will produce. A child's favorite chicken-related chore is bound to be collecting eggs.

To learn more about raising and keeping your own backyard chickens, try these great books:

Keeping Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces, by Barbara Kilarski

Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock, by Jay Rossier

Barnyard in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cows, by Gail Damerow