UPDATE: The chicken ban was upheld. The Flores family will have to forgo their flock. Read the comments from readers to see reactions.
Today's Herald-News has a cover story about Lockport voting whether to lift its chicken ban. Coincidently - and we seriously didn't plan this - Common Sense columnist Gaby Arnhart is on the Viewpoint page saying chickens shouldn't be allowed.
Her arguments are the common ones against urban poultry:
- Chickens require special care and expensive vet treatment.
- Chickens aren't friendly unless you socialize them.
- Coops are expensive.
- Owners might be irresponsible and let their chickens roam.
- They won't be a good fit on small lots.
These arguments are the immediate reaction of people who haven't examined the facts.
Chickens require special care and expensive vet treatment.
Many animals require special care and have to go to the vet. But we don't ban breeds of dogs that need more attention. No village rules that people can't adopt pets with special needs because the vet bills might be high.
And you know what requires a LOT of care and expensive doctor visits? Babies. But you won't see Plainfield telling me that I can't get pregnant until the economy improves.
Chickens aren't friendly unless you socialize them.
Often times, neither are dogs. Or people. We read about vicious animals who have gone feral from isolation. We read about children who never learned to speak or interact because they were locked up and had no interaction. Does that mean no one could have animals or children? No, it means that you should treat the animals and children right so they are socialized. Same with chickens.
Coops are expensive
My sister's dogs are on medication that costs a fortune. So is the dog of a former night news editor here. Some animals have special needs that require extra funding. But people still get them and take care of them because we care for our pets.
Owners might be irresponsible and let their chickens roam.
My neighbor has two dachshunds who bark when we come out, chase the wildlife we welcome and leave "gifts" in our yards. But no one is suggesting that dogs be banned.
As with any other animal, there would be rules about the chickens' coops and about their movements. And if one did get away, at least what it left behind in my yard might be an edible egg.
Make rules and ticket those who don't abide by them. By banning chickens altogether, you throw the baby out with the bathwater.
They won't be a good fit on small lots.
That's why there are rules. Naperville's chicken ordinance says the coop has to be 25 feet from any neighboring homes. That means in a high-density subdivision, you aren't tripping over your neighbor's coop.
Rules would make sure there were no roosters (too noisy), that people didn't have dozens of chickens (too crowded) and that they were properly maintained and cared for. If you screw up, you lose the right to have them. Just like with any animal.
And, frankly, have you ever lived next to a house where there were a ton of young children? Talk about a bad fit for a small lot. But no one will ever come in and suggest a family with a lot of kids should be banned.
My final word (maybe):
Unlike kids and dogs, chickens provide food, are relatively quiet and don't set off my allergies. (Not that I'm allergic to kids.) If I'm willing to invest the money and time, I should think my neighbors would be willing to put up with some quiet clucking ... if they can even hear it over the dachshunds.
The photo at the top is by Herald-News photographer John Patsch and shows two of the chickens owned by the Flores family look out of their pen in Lockport.