Donna Steinke wants O’Fallon to join a growing number of communities allowing chickens to be raised in the city limits.
Steinke read a letter and her husband, Brian, distributed a packet of information, including guidelines based on other cities’ ordinances, to the O’Fallon City Council Feb. 6.
She asked that aldermen consider a variance to the current nuisance animals law to permit a small number of hens, properly confined to their owner’s yard.
She noted that Chapter 90.01(4) of the city ordinance code book lists poultry as a domestic animal, but Chapter 90.07 does not list poultry or chickens as animals restricted to agricultural and rural residential districts.
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“Therefore, the only impedance in keeping ‘urban chickens’ within the city of O’Fallon is Chapter 94.01, which is in direct conflict with Chapters 90.01 (4) and 90.07,” she said.
The Steinkes are residents of O’Fallon, but Donna grew up in Florida, and her family raised chickens.
“There is no reason not to have them,” she said after the meeting. “I want to show that there really is interest. That’s the push back I get, that ‘nobody’s interested,’ but I think they are.”
Across the country, both urban and suburban areas are allowing small backyard flocks of hens, she said. Major cities include New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Baltimore.
“Closer to home, St. Louis, Swansea, Fairview Heights and Collinsville have joined many towns that allow ‘urban chickens,’ ” she said.
She explained that there is no need to have a rooster in order to get eggs, and that allowing only hens would prevent public nuisances related to noise levels.
“A common misconception is that hens must have a rooster to lay eggs, and this is simply not true,” she said. “Owners of hens prize them as any other pet. Some for their personality, others for their heritage, and others for their colors and patterns. Hens, unlike roosters, are friendly, entertaining, and quiet.”
The urban farming movement, including raising chickens has grown, Steinke said, because more people want to live a “greener lifestyle.”
“(Chickens) readily eat table scraps, keeping them from ending up in landfills, are a natural insect control for lawns, produce fertilizer for use in home gardens, and also provide eggs for the family they live with,” she said.
That is why she wants to keep them, she said. “Furthermore, I would like to allow my future children, and other children of O’Fallon, the experience of raising hens to demonstrate green living, showing them where their food originated, and the responsibility of caring for this extraordinary animal.”
Another point is that it would preserve the agricultural heritage of the area, she noted.
Rural King offers free educational classes through Anne May, who also instructs classes at Southwestern Illinois College and Rend Lake College, she noted.
She said various websites also provides information for citizens interested in the hobby.
If not a variance, then clarification of poultry livestock could be made, she asked the council.
Adult hens thrive in a pen that provides a 3-4 square foot dwelling with 10 square feet of run. Such a pen is about the size of a large doghouse, she explained.
In her guidelines for the council to review, she said a small flock ordinance would mean up to six hens. They would be protected from wildlife in a fenced-in run, and would not be allowed to freely pasture. Pens and runs would be kept clean to avoid perceptible odor at property lines. Feed for hens would be stored in impermeable container to avoid attracting pests and natural predators.
Steinke has established a Facebook page, “Backyard Chickens for O’Fallon, IL.”