The backyard chicken trend is becoming a movement across the Northwest suburbs.
Grassroots campaigns, documentaries, online forums and events are on the rise to spread awareness about raising chickens in residential backyards.
Matt Scallon, an Arlington Heights resident is right in the mix.
Scallon asked the Arlington Heights Village Board in February for a variance to their municipal code, which does not allow the keeping of any animals other than those customarily kept as pets.
Scallon petition to raise three chickens in his backyard on the 400 block of S. Walnut Ave. but was ultimately denied, 7-2, with only Trustees Carol Blackwood and Mike Sidor voting in his favor.
Objections to Scallon’s request, includes noise, public health issues, cleanliness, property values and density of the neighborhood.
Before Scallon asked for a variance, he had to notify all the property owners within 250 feet of his home. Scallon said he didn’t receive any objections from his neighbors.
“My neighbors gave me the ok, 'so it looks like a go,’” he said.
Scallon began building his chicken coop in sections and finished the project within four months.
However, Scallon would soon find out that his neighbor to the right had reservations and did not support Scallon’s request.
Scallon said his neighbor to the right of his home, has concerns that flooding would cause feces from the chickens to come in his yard.
Scallon said he keeps his yard clean and will continue to do so if the village board allowed him to raise chickens in backyard.
At the February board meeting, Scallon was also met with objections from residents who signed a petition against the coop.
According to village documents, Sheila Meyer said the petitioners against the coop were not direct neighbors but lived in the general area and had concerns about odor and disease.
“Chickens raised in the fashion planned by the Scallons are no health risk at all to others,” Dr. Peter Sakas, a veterinarian at the Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical center, said in a letter presented by Scallon.
“With the proper precautions taken by the Scallons and the measures they are following with quality construction of their enclosures for the chickens there is absolutely no risk of any transmission of disease organisms,” Dr. Sakas said in the letter.
Scallon is back with a new plan that he hopes the village board will approve.
“I want to do it the right way, if it does prove to be a disruption, I’ll find out myself,” Scallon said. “At least give me the opportunity.”
In his new plan; Scallon has his chicken coop 40 feet away from his neighbor’s fence, originally only seven feet away. The coop is hidden from plain view, as it’s under a raised deck in his backyard. The coop, however, is now classified as a birdhouse by the village.
The process of building a chicken coop, going through the proper channels to raise chickens legally and the board denial, had taken a toll on Scallon.
To express his feelings about the situation, Scallon wrote a story titled “The Virgin Coop” loosely based on his experiences with the chicken coop from this past year. Scallon uses fictional characters and places in the story.
With the lost of his mother earlier this year, the story was also an expression of Scallon’s grief. “She was a devout catholic, so the story has Christian themes,” he said.
Scallon plans to appeal the village board ruling this fall and propose that his request of raising three chickens be put on a three-year pilot-study for the village. During the three-year period, the village can evaluate complaints, noisiness and gather neighborhood concerns, Scallon said.
“Chickens are giving new life, for the village to deny something so personal, is heartbreaking,” Scallon said.
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