Policies & City Chickens

We want to preserve the option of keeping chickens (and other livestock) in Chicagoland backyards. To that end we network with each other, provide backyard chicken keepers with advice and guidance, offer workshops and coop tours to promote best practices, and correct misinformation.
In Chicago, keeping chickens as pets and for eggs (humanely, cleanly, appropriately) is not prohibited in residential districts. There is no specific prohibition on livestock in residential areas, but slaughtering, nuisance, sanitation, and humane treatment and housing ordinances apply. See section 7-12-100 of the city code

See our growing collection of info about IL Chicken Policies and people organizing for pro-chicken policies where they live. For guidance on searching municipal codes, see below.

If you have new info or updates, please send to (martha AT learngrowconnect.org).

In Chicago:

  • There's no limit on number of chickens per household, nor is there a ban on roosters.
  • Keeping ANY animal for the purpose of slaughtering for food is prohibited. Permitted slaughtering facilities in Chicago (like "Live Poultry" establishments) are monitored by the state under biosecurity protocols.
  • Excessive animal noise like crowing (and barking) is prohibited.
Related state laws address sale of eggs and poultry meat processing (also see our page End of Life.)

More resources to help inform neighbors and policy makers:
In 2010, DePaul U professor Hugh Bartling assigned students to survey staff in more than 20 municipalities around the country after they passed ordinances allowing chickens to see what impact that had on staff and communities. The report is HERE, and it was incorporated into this set of notes/discussion for the Batavia City services committee.  These provide a great overview of real issues that typically arise, and productive discussion about them.

This very interesting article in the Journal of Planning History describes the emergence of urban planning from the need to manage livestock in US cities in the late 19th and early 20th century: "From Farm to Nuisance: Animal Agriculture and the Rise of Planning Regulation," Catherine Brinkley and Dominic Vitiello, 2013.
Municipal Codes in Chicago and Illinois

Municipal, county, and state codes are increasingly online and searchable by keyword. Search keywords to find related topics and consider the reasons for these policies where you live. 
Try: chicken, rooster, poultry, fowl, slaughter, manure, compost, rats, coop, stable, nuisance, noise, sanitation, eggs.

Try your town or village website, or links below:



Other Examples & Information

These and the examples that follow provide models and guidance; some details may have changed since they were posted.

ChiChickEns shares our Recommended Practices as good standards for livestock, neighbors, and city procedures. In Chicago, CCE's position is that existing ordinances cover the bases (nuisance, sanitation, noise, slaughter, animal welfare) and that regulations specific to backyard chickens are unnecessary and even unhelpful. In summer of 2012, a group of CCE members reviewed and revised a draft ordinance to a version we thought our members could approve, if required in the future.
Common elements in other cities' policies include:
  • A limit on total number of chickens allowed per residence or standard lot (but at least 2 since they are social animals)
  • A maximum number of chickens allowed without a permit or license
  • Coop design/build recommendations. For example: gauge of wire mesh, birds enclosed in pen, fenced yard for daytime foraging, minimum distance from nearest neighboring residence (keeping in mind the standard size of Chicago's residential lots)
  • No roosters allowed, or no crowing that neighbors identify as a nuisance
  • A requirement to complete a training/workshop on best practices.
  • Reference to existing nuisance, sanitation, humane housing and treatment, and anti-slaughtering laws that apply in all situations (not just backyard chickens).

From the NYC health code and the Madison WI municipal code (the latter directly addresses rats):

  • New York City states no number limit or coop requirements but location must be 25 feet from nearest adjacent property's residence, and all property occupants must approve.
  • Madison limits total birds to 4, in a coop, also 25 feet from neighbor's residence (they were recently looking at increasing the limit).
  • Both NYC and Madison require a permit. (See www.madcitychickens.com for more information)
  • Other cities require a permit over a maximum number of hens (usually 4-6 birds.)
Martha Boyd,
Feb 28, 2014, 3:15 PM
Martha Boyd,
Apr 24, 2015, 10:03 PM
Martha Boyd,
Sep 20, 2012, 9:36 AM