Sue Sturm gave her daughter, Natalie, a congratulatory high five after the Grayslake Village Board unanimously approved allowing chickens in back yards.
Natalie, 15, said she had already purchased equipment to build a coop in her back yard and vowed to quickly get it up and ready for six chickens. She expected a yes vote after a recent committee of the whole meeting approved the concept.
A 4H club member, Natalie has been raising chickens on an Antioch farm and now will bring six, including Echo, Sadie, Merible, Hazel, Penny and one more yet-to-be-chosen lucky hen, to their new home – and that means fresh eggs for the Sturm family. Two are already laying eggs, Natalie said.
The Grayslake ordinance stipulates that no more than six hens – no roosters allowed – can be kept in rear yards of detached single-family homes. But eggs cannot be sold from homes and slaughter there also is prohibitied. A 6-foot fence is required if the hens roam freely. The Sturms already have the required fence and will build the coop to meet the height and size limitations in the ordinance.
Mayor Rhett Taylor said he's favored allowing back yard chickens in Grayslake ever since a young boy approached him in August 2012 inquiring about the issue.
"I told him to draw up an ordinance and I'd send it to the zoning board of appeals," Taylor said.
Sue Sturm said at first the zoning board was against it. She, too, didn't like the idea when Natalie asked if they could have chickens and told her the village didn't allow it.
But Natalie changed her mother's mind and together they prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the Grayslake zoning board last summer.
"They had a lot of misconceptions," Sue Sturm said of board members. "But by the time we went to the next meeting, they were all for it."
Taylor said the board was mainly concerned about noise, but police said a barking dog was more of a problem. Taylor said allowing only hens, because roosters are noisier, took care of the issue.
When the chickens come to roost in Grayslake, Natalie will lock them up in the coop for a couple of days.
"It will help them get to know this is where their new home is," she said. "Then we'll let them out onto their run," a grassy area where they can pick at bugs and take dust baths.
Sue Sturm said she'll enjoy the fact that chickens help keep insects at bay in her yard, while Natalie is looking forward to watching the antics of her six hens.
"Chickens are pretty quirky," she said. "They like to chat to each other."
Grayslake joins other Lake County towns, including Deerfield and Fox Lake, that allow hen-keeping. In November, the Lake County Board reduced the minimum acreage required to one-quarter from five for raising chickens in unincorporated areas. Also that month, Libertyville officials voted against reducing the minimum acreage.
Some Mundelein, Round Lake and Highland Park residents want to be able to raise chickens on small lots, but officials there have not approved the idea. Residents who oppose chickens in suburban yards cite smell, noise, predators and the potential lowering of property rates as problems.