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Posted 21 JULY, 2017

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County Board passed the Chicken Ordinance Mandate in 2016.

Well folks, next Monday marks the first anniversary of the DuPage County Chicken Ordinance Mandate of 2016, so it seemed appropriate that Sustain DuPage should analyze the impact of the mandate a year out. Many people wondered if the sky would fall last year when the DuPage County Board voted to pass a County-wide mandate requiring each DuPage municipality to write up a common-sense ordinance enabling landowners to raise chickens in their yard.

For years many DuPagers fought to assert that their Constitutional Right to Private Property entitles them to the raising of chickens, but only after a concerted and organized effort from the DuPage Backyard Chicken Alliance (DBCA) was there any County-wide political action to protect a citizens’ right to grow food on their own land. 

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Bemily & supporters attend Board meeting.

We interviewed Community Organizer and DBCA Founder Bemily Separd-Presed about the Mandate earlier this week. 

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Bemily, if you had to credit one thing your group did to push this Mandate through, what would you say it was?

“There were really a few things that I think helped us to pass the Mandate last year.

First, I think it was important that we didn’t ask for a County-wide ordinance that demanded one general policy, like many people in the community had originally suggested to our group. We used language in our proposed Mandate that allowed for each municipality to draw up their own ordinances based upon what made sense on a local level, with the one caveat of course being that every homeowner with a yard of 10 square feet in area or greater must be allowed to keep chickens. That way municipalities could create an ordinance that stipulated how big a coop could be, maximum flock size, aesthetic requirements of the coops, et cetera.

The second thing that helped us was that we showed up. For County Board meetings about the Mandate, I made sure everyone knew when and where to go, and we all wore yellow to represent that we were for the proposed Mandate. I think the Board realized that we were very passionate about this issue and that we would be voting for representatives who were pro-chicken at the polls.

The third thing that really brought us success was when we as a group decided to make a compromise that roosters would only be allowed for twenty four hours in any pen for the purposes of breeding and then must be taken away. Once we put in that specific amendment I think a lot of people in the community who were on the fence because they were worried about the roosters calling early in the morning decided to support us. We didn’t even know that this part of the mandate would be a job creator in the form of Rocky’s Roosters- that one small business you may have heard about that organizes mating days and drops off the roosters from out of town.

It was also really important that we cited examples from other comparable communities that had passed a similar mandate. Local leaders don’t ever want be the first ones to stick their necks out on an issue, so providing examples of this happening elsewhere really helped.”

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                   Everyone hates stepping in dog poop.


 Could you tell us a little bit about your “Chicken Manure Campaign”?

“Definitely. In community outreach sessions our group kept having people complain that they didn’t want chicken manure ending up in their yards or public spaces like parks, which we all agreed was a totally legitimate concern. So someone in our group had the idea to put a line in the Mandate that specifically said, oh- I forget how it was worded exactly, but something like, ‘It shall be illegal in DuPage County to allow your chickens off of your property.’ That was great because it really took the wind out of the ‘there-will-be-poop-everywhere’ crowd’s sails. And then, we went door-to-door and pamphleted a specific area in Wheaton that seemed to be voicing manure concerns. Ironically the source of the spreading of concerns was the proud owner of a Great Dane. (Laughter).” 

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What did you say to those people? The ones with poop concerns?

“Well, first, we made sure not to call it poop. Haha- people don’t like that word. We just told them how chicken manure can be composted with mulch or leaves and it turns to rich soil pretty quickly. I think showing people the bag of Chickity Doo Doo– which is dried chicken manure in a bag you can purchase at a lot of local plant nurseries in DuPage to add to your vegetable garden- I think that really helped people realize that chicken manure is a really valuable resource. Like, it sells for $1.28 a pound at the store. Who wants to pay for that when they could get it for free, you know?”

Thank you so much for your time Bemily.

My pleasure!

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We also tried to interview a few people in the community about what they thought of the new Mandate, but most people told us they didn’t care enough to comment. Below are those who did begrudgingly decide to comment.

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We asked Cheryl Gertrudestein what she thought of her neighbor’s chickens and her response was, “-hold on Margie- What? Oh. Uh… I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter to me- I’m too busy to really notice things like that. Listen, I’ve got to go pick up my kids from soccer practice, could you pull your car out? Margie are you still there?”

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Greg Ajumble didn’t really have an opinion about his neighbor having two chickens, saying, “Yeah- I guess I just wouldn’t want to have to take care of one myself- I hate yardwork. But my next-door neighbor seems to like her chickens- sometimes I hear her talking to them, which is pretty weird I think. I dunno- sometimes my other friend Stephanie from down the street will bring me eggs, which would be cool I guess if I wasn’t vegan? So…yeah.”

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Bob Spijanski, who’s next door neighbor has three hens, had the most passionate answer when he responded, “No one cares, they’re just stupid chickens- all they do is cluck and peck at the weeds in the grass. That was such a non-issue last year. I don’t think the government should be telling us what to do in our own backyards. It’s like going around and asking people what they think about crows. Please don’t come back. I’m really tired of hearing about chickens- what my neighbors do in their yard is their own d*mned business, I really just want to move on from the whole thing and live my life in peace.”

So there you have it folks. It’s the year 2017, just about everyone in DuPage has chickens, and it seems like no one really cares.

If you like this DuPage Future, MAKE IT HAPPEN!

We may be closer to a DuPage-wide Chicken Ordinance Mandate than you realize. There are municipalities that have already passed chicken ordinances “allowing” for chickens in DuPage, and even more communities that turn a blind eye to chickens as long as they don’t receive complaints from neighbors. If we organize and force this issue, we can prevent harassment from local governments wanting to interfere in our personal lives. There are many accounts of DuPagers who have had chickens for years (with no problems) getting a new neighbor who is a curmudgeon complaining- forcing local authorities to demand chicken owners get rid of their chickens and disassemble their coops. These losses of financial investment are not compensated by the municipality or the complaining neighbor. On top of that, sometimes people are slapped with a fine to add insult to injury- something we like to call the Unfair Chicken Tax. There are sometimes no protections for these homeowners written into local code- but we can change that! If you’re interested in defending you’re Constitutional Right to Private Property, follow the steps below.

1) Organize your neighbors who want chickens.

2) Research ordinances from comparable municipalities that have one.

3) Draft an example ordinance.

4) Propose it to your local Environmental Commission/Committee (if you have one).

a. If you don’t have one, make one!

5) Edit the ordinance to meet the needs of your community (reflected by community input sessions).

6) Get it on your Municipal Board’s agenda.

7) Get people to show up to support the ordinance and make sure to represent the cause!

8) Be prepared to make compromises, but aim high.

9) Respectfully approach community members who show concern, acknowledge their fears and then offer education that provides insight into why they shouldn’t be afraid of chickens.

10) Before the final Board vote, meet with Board members in private to ensure you have their vote. If you don’t have enough Board votes to get it passed, ask what you can change about the ordinance/mandate that would secure their vote.

11) Raise chickens and get on with your d*mned life.

*Thank you to Whitville Backyard Farms for the slideshow photos!

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

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