Swansea is the latest metro-east town to allow residents to raise chickens in their backyard.
Belleville, Mascoutah and St. Clair County have have turned down requests to allow chickens in neighborhoods, while other metro-east towns, including Collinsville and Fairview Heights, have allowed people to keep hens in backyards in recent years as part of a nationwide trend of city dwellers raising chickens for eggs, meat or companionship.
Swansea village leaders recently voted unanimously to allow chickens in neighborhoods with residential zoning. That vote was a reversal of what happened about four years ago when the village board rejected such a plan.
“This is something that’s going on all across this country,” Swansea Trustee Brian Wells said. “People want to know what’s in their food.”
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This is something that’s going on all across this country. People want to know what’s in their food.
Swansea Trustee Brian Wells
Wells first sponsored the chicken ordinance more than four years ago when a military family wanted to raise chickens in their backyard. The family has since been transferred from the area.
Swansea Mayor Ken Mueller said his family raised chickens when he was a child and reminds would-be backyard farmers of this memory: “The chickens don’t lay eggs forever.”
Indeed, the University of California reports that egg numbers and quality will decline as chickens age.
After egg production greatly drops, the owner needs to decide whether to keep the chickens or harvest or sell the birds, according to the California report titled “Selecting Chickens for Home Use.” The report also recommends that you do not introduce young chicks with mature hens because it “may result in fighting or cannibalism.”
The chickens don’t lay eggs forever.
Swansea Mayor Ken Mueller
Also, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns people who keep chickens to be vigilant to prevent salmonella infection, which the Mayo Clinic says is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract.
The CDC reported in October that state and federal officials investigated eight multistate outbreaks with human salmonella infections linked to live poultry in backyard flocks between January 2016 and September 2016. In the eight outbreaks, 895 people were infected with salmonella, and one person in Mississippi died. This was largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded, the CDC said.
“Live poultry may have salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can get on cages, coops, feed and water dishes, hay, plants and soil in the area where the birds live and roam,” the CDC reports. “People become infected with salmonella when they put their hands or other things that have been in contact with live poultry in or around their mouth.”
Here are some safety tips from the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:
▪ Always wash hands thoroughly immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
▪ Do not let children younger than 5 handle or touch chickens without adult supervision.
▪ Do not let chickens in your house.
▪ Do not eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
In Swansea, Mueller and Wells said homeowners associations could ban chickens as part of a subdivision covenant.
Here are some of guidelines Swansea residents have to follow if they want to have chickens:
▪ A maximum of four hens allowed per property
▪ No roosters are allowed.
▪ Must get a permit each year from the village. The application fee is $10.
▪ Chickens must be kept in an enclosure or fenced area at all times.
▪ Chicken coops must have adequate ventilation and be built to protect chickens from predators.
Other metro-east communities
In November 2015, Collinsville passed an ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards.
Since that approval, six residents have paid the $50 fee for a three-year permit to own chickens.
Fairview Heights residents are allowed to have chickens in their yard as long as they don’t have roosters.
But other metro-east communities have not allowed chickens in residential areas.
In March 2015, Belleville’s Public Health and Housing Committee voted down a proposal that would permit chickens in neighborhoods.
St. Clair and Madison counties also do not allow chickens in residential areas.
Last spring, some Mascoutah residents posted on Facebook they would like to raise chickens, but City Council meeting minutes show that others opposed the idea. In June, the City Council voted to prohibit chickens, along with all kinds of other animals including cougars, elephants and gorillas.