An assortment of burros, llamas, goats and sheep have been chewing on O'Hare International Airport's hard-to-reach landscape for two weeks now, and Tuesday morning the group of about 25 welcomed a new addition.
The baby lamb, a boy, was named O'Hare.
Chicago Department of Aviation officials said the project is part of the airport's sustainability effort. It is spending $19,500 on a two-year contract for the animals. Department Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino could not say how much the airport saves by using them instead of a landscaping service.
Similar programs have been used at airports in Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta.
Andolino said the areas where the animals graze are virtually impossible for machinery to reach. She also said they serve a second purpose by shooing away other wildlife by gobbling up their habitat.
"Wildlife is always a challenge at airports," Andolino said. "Birds and planes do not mix."
One of the animals' caretakers, Pinky Janota, of Settler's Pond Animal Shelter, said llamas and burros keep coyotes away, while sheep and goats will eat the weeds the other animals won't.
About 2 acres of grass on the northern edge of O'Hare property remained tall and dry on the animals' second day of grazing Tuesday. They cleared out about a 5-acre patch on the eastern edge of the property in their first two weeks at the airport.
Many of the animals, including the two llamas and several burros and sheep, come from Settler's Pond. Some of the goats hail from Barrington, shepherded by Joseph Arnold, a partner with Central Commissary Holdings LLC, which owns the Lincoln Park restaurant Butcher & The Burger. Arnold plans to also use the goats to make cheese and milk for the restaurant.
Arnold said the restaurant raises its own animals, including hogs and chickens. He said his company bought the goats on a whim, but shortly after the purchase they heard about the city's effort and decided to apply. They won the contract with the lowest bid.
The animals, which are separated from the airfield by security fencing, will graze for about six months each year, returning to their homes at the shelter or in Barrington in colder months, said Amy Malick, the city aviation department's deputy commissioner of sustainability.
Janota said the animals have adjusted well to their noisy environment.
"(The baby lamb) was up suckling on mom, planes flying overhead," Janota said. "He didn't flinch; mom didn't move. Everybody's content."