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Long Grove to Allow Backyard Chickens

Village Board approves plan to allow chickens; vote on details to come.

This is an update on a series about local food and suburban farming.

Long Grove leaders voted in favor of a plan to allow residents to keep chickens, at a recent village board meeting.

Village Manager David Lothspeich said the Village Board approved a recommendation from the plan commission to amend the village code, allowing chickens in residential districts. The board suggested some changes to the planner’s recommendations. Now the village attorney will draft an ordinance, which will go for a final vote on Nov. 22.

“Historically Long Grove has been a leader on the environmental forefront. So in that regard, this is entirely consistent with where the village has been for a long time,” Lothspeich said. “What the board is trying to do is strike a balance. It’s not farm country, but it’s not the typical suburb that doesn’t allow anything of this sort.”

Long Grove will be the first municipality in Lake County to allow its residents to keep chickens. However, many urban towns do allow chickens including Evanston, Oak Park, St. Charles, Naperville and a few other western suburbs. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Madison residents can keep hens. The city of Chicago always has allowed chickens.

In McHenry County, chicken enthusiasts brought the issue to Crystal Lake last summer and McHenry, last month. In both towns, the village boards decided against allowing chickens by just one vote.

John Emrich, the Long Grove resident who brought the backyard chicken issue before the board, said he was thrilled with the Village Board’s support.

“I think the village trustees were very pragmatic and forward-thinking. They put a lot of effort and energy into something that will probably have just a modest number of participants in the early years,” Emrich said.

While details are not finalized, the ordinance would allow chickens on a sliding scale depending on the size of the lot. People on lots of less than one acre would need to apply for a variance if they want to keep chickens.

Emrich said he would be one of the residents who would need a variance. Although he leaves on a one-acre lot, easements result in it being less than an acre, technically.

The plan commission’s recommendations started with two chickens on an acre lot, but the Village Board bumped that up to four chickens. Lothspeich said that since chickens are so small, there is not much difference between two and four — except for the chickens, which need to group together to keep warm in the winter.

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