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, noise, and humane treatment and housing ordinances apply. See and search the Chicago Municipal Code for details.
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).
- 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.
More resources to help inform neighbors and policy makers:
- CCE's RECOMMENDED PRACTICES for backyard chickens in Chicago. We promote these standards in classes, Tours, and presentations.
- Our Responses to Common Concerns about Backyard Chickens (attachment below, pdf).
- In 2012, a group of ChiChickEns reviewed and revised a draft Chicken Ordinance under consideration. We recommend not regulating chickens specifically but applying general policies on sanitation, nuisances, and animal care to address issues that may arise.
- Shattering 7 Urban Myths About Raising Chickens OR download the handy 2-page attachment, also below (pdf).
- Kevin Harvey's presentation for debates about Backyard Chickens in Glencoe.
- Our publication, the 2013 Windy City Backyard Chicken Resource Guide. To be a Backyard Chickens Ambassador in your ward (of Chicago) or your town, contact Martha Boyd for more information (martha AT learngrowconnect.org).
See the Chicken Ordinance Survey (2010) by DePaul University students of professor Hugh Bartling. They surveyed staff in more than 20 municipalities around the country after they passed ordinances allowing chickens, to find out impacts on staff and communities.
That report was incorporated into this set of notes/discussion for the Batavia City services committee (link lost, looking!).
These provide a great overview of real issues that typically arise, and productive discussion about them.
The American Planning Association's Knowledge Base has a collection of articles, briefing papers, and reports filed under Urban Livestock. Among them:
- Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens (2012) by Jaime Bouvier, Environmental Law Institute (pdf attached below).
This 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, (2013) by Catherine Brinkley and Dominic Vitiello.
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:
- Search it yourself HERE
- The City Clerk's website also has info + links to the Municipal Code
- The Chicago City Clerk's Legislative Info Center is a great portal for City Council, committee, and legislative info.
- Info about Wards & City Council Members (find your alder, etc).
ChiChickEns shares our Recommended Practices as good standards for livestock, neighbors, and city procedures.
In Chicago, we think 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. Our aim was a version that ChiChickEns members may approve if required at some point.
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 limit on total number depending on distance to nearest neighboring residence
- 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 at least no crowing that neighbors identify as a nuisance (note that banning roosters can lead to dumping roosters...)
- 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).
Other Examples & Information
These examples provide models and guidance; some details may have changed since they were posted.