By YADIRA SANCHEZ OLSON
LAKE COUNTY — Chickens could soon be pecking in backyards of residents living in unincorporated areas of Lake County, if an ordinance is approved by the County Board.
That could also lead the way to incorpoated towns in the county to examine chicken-raising ordinances.
At a public meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 17, the Zoning Board of Appeals will be presented with a proposal that includes allowing no more than six chickens on a residential quarter lot.
One Lake County resident who raises and keeps chickens is 73-year-old Jose Facundo, who lives on 10 acres of land in Beach Park and has raised the fowl for more than 20 years.
Unless there’s a complaint, Beach Park officials won’t fine someone raising chickens, according to the village.
Facundo’s children and grandchildren eat the fresh eggs from his hens.
“It’s normal for us to walk in the yard and see the [chickens],” said Facundo’s 19-year-old grandson, Jose Contreras of Zion.
Facundo said it’s easy living with the chickens. He communicates with them by whistling to get their attention.
As he stood in his backyard last week, with a cowboy hat on and whistled intermittently, his 15 hens gathered around him, coming out of their coop and from behind trees.
“They’re just like any other pet we’ve had. You talk to them, feed them, clean their area. The bonus is they give you eggs,” Facundo said.
That is the idea behind the research the Regional Planning Commission performed to draft the ordinance they’ll present at the meeting to the zoning board, said Lake County Director of Planning, Building and Development, Eric Waggoner.
“This stems from a two-year study of sustainable food source. It’s going to be a question of whether the county is ready,” Waggoner said. He added county officials have seen the local food movement picking up speed but that residents have expressed some concerns of the possibility of odor and noise, if chickens are raised near their homes.
He said that’s been addressed in the draft. The draft bans residents from keeping roosters and “hens make hardly any noise,” Waggoner said.
Residents in unincorporated areas would be allowed to keep no more than six chickens on a residential quarter lot and municipalities would then decide whether to follow the ordinance.
Normally, board meetings are held at 1 p.m., Waggoner said, but they’re anticipating the public will want to weigh in on the issue and an evening meeting was scheduled to allow those who work in the day to attend.
“The public’s comments will definitely be taken into consideration,” Waggoner said.
Rory Klick, head of the horticulture department at the College of Lake County and board member of the Regional Planning Commission, said the draft would serve as a model for the municipalities, and added she’s hoping it does pass. She said the commission did a great job at considering concerns people expressed, for example, odor.
“The wording of the ordinance defines clear boundaries,” Klick said. “It states coops and yards must be cleaned on a regular basis.”
The draft also stipulates that feed is kept in containers with tightly fitted lids that are rodent-proof.
One resident who will be at the meeting in support of the ordinance is Ed Fuhrman of Round Lake Beach.
He’s a member of Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chicken Keeping or CLUCK.
Before living in Lake County, Furhman lived in Chicago and said he and his neighbors kept chickens and rabbits.
He now travels throughout the county giving talks about the myths, misconceptions and benefits of raising chickens.
One misconception he said many people at his lectures have is that if their neighbor keeps chickens, their property values will go down.
“That’s the property value bogeyman,” he said. “Places like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago allow chickens in backyards and those are high value property areas.”
Furhman reminds people at his talks that those who grew up during World War II remember getting their food and vegetables from, “their critters and their gardens,” he said. “We’re just so far removed from animals now that no one knows where their food comes from. It scares them.”
He added that at his talks he meets more and more young people, who are learning about sustainability and want to get reconnected with their food supply. He said having chickens is one easy way to do that.
Chickens are also entertaining, he added. “They have their own personality; some are charming, some are shy. Some people who own chickens will set their patio furniture facing the coop just to watch them interact,’’ Furhman said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting is at 6 p.m. Oct 17 at the Lake County Forest Preserve Independence Grove Visitors Center, 16400 W. Buckley Rd. in Libertyville.
Waggoner said the Lake County Board could make a decision as soon as November.