Should Forest Parkers be allowed to keep chickens in their yards?

Maria Maxham, commissioner of public health and safety, will hold a public hearing on a potential ordinance that would allow that to happen.

The hearing will be held Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at village hall. Maxham said that, before developing any ordinance, she wanted to see whether there was enough support to go down that road. She also said she would present regulations from towns which already allow chickens and bring in experts to respond to resident questions and concerns.

Maxham said she first looked into the issue while working as editor of the Forest Park Review. Forest Park Public Health and Safety Director Steve Glinke told her at the time that the village wouldn’t consider allowing chickens in the back yards unless “a big group comes forward” asking for it. When she became commissioner, she decided to continue that policy – until a group of around 20 to 25 residents reached out to her.

Maxham said not everyone in the group wanted to raise chickens themselves – some simply thought it was a good idea in principle. The reasons for the support varied, with some wanting their own source of eggs and some simply wanting to keep chickens as pets.

“The cost of a dozen eggs has doubled in the past two years,” Maxham said. “The groceries are becoming a lot more expensive, and [the chickens] eat bugs and other pests.”

At the same time, the commissioner was mindful of concerns that chickens would create noise, and that chicken feed could attract rats and bigger pets. Maxham researched ordinances in other suburbs that allow raising chickens to try to figure out the best practices. She specifically mentioned Westchester, Berkeley, Evanston and Lake Bluff as examples. 

While she emphasized several times that there is no draft ordinance of any kind, she discussed things that would most likely be part of it if the village does move forward. Forest Park wouldn’t allow raising roosters, simply because their crowing would be too disruptive. The ordinance would most likely call for regular inspections, and there would most likely be regulations on how chicken feed can be stored to avoid the aforementioned concern over rats. 

Maxham would weigh taking a cue from Evanston and only allow a handful of hen-raising licenses at first and gradually increasing the number over time. 

The Review invited readers to share their opinion on the issue on Facebook. The response was mixed, with some commenters expressing support and several opposing it, with noise and rat issues being the recurring concerns. 

Resident Kat Briones reached out to the Review, saying that she would support it.

“[My family and I] moved to Forest Park from Ukrainian Village in Chicago a year ago and are loving our time here — we have two young kids that go to school in District 91 and have more on the way,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a few chickens and wished Forest Park allowed them, since Berwyn and Oak Park allow them.”