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Local

'Maybe we should allow chickens'

GENEVA – Chickens are egg-laying, bug-eating, compost dropping, occasional squawkers that might make a fine addition to the city's urban neighborhoods.

And as a way for people to cope with the current tough economic times. Fifth Ward Alderman Paul DesCoteaux said he will bring up the idea of approving an ordinance to allow city residents to keep chickens as a hedge against rising food prices.

"I feel that times will be tougher than what they are now before they get better," DesCoteaux said. "Nobody knows when it will get better. Some towns allow the raising of chickens without a rooster to wake people up. Maybe we should allow chickens."

In that vein, DesCoteaux said, he would also suggest that Geneva cultivate an area of the city where residents can have community gardens. This would also allow them to cut food costs by raising their own vegetables.

Mayor Kevin Burns said the city could consider community gardens – but he did not embrace the idea of chickens.

"Anytime a project benefits the community, it will receive all consideration and support," Burns said. "But chickens? Really? I'm going to start raising cattle. I spent the last eight years with chickens. They're called aldermen. They're annoying, and they smell."

But chickens being smelly and annoying are myths that Craig MacLean hopes to counter once the issue is discussed seriously.

MacLean, owner of the Pure Gardener Inc., 502 W. State St., Geneva, which specializes in organic and natural products, brought both issues to DesCoteaux and asked him introduce them to the council. Areas he suggests for community gardens are the green space on Peck road and the inmate garden at the former jail site.

As for chickens, MacLean said, many cities including Madison have introduced ordinances to allow residents to keep them.

"Urban chickens – there's tons of [ordinance] models in place," MacLean said. "We're not asking them to start from square one, we're asking them to consider what others have put a lot of thought into. People who are interested ought to be allowed to do it, in a responsible way so it's got little or no impact on neighbors – except they might get free eggs out of it."

Cities in Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, California and Wisconsin have approved ordinances allowing urban chickens, MacLean said.

Madison, Wis., has a 2004 urban chicken ordinance that requires the birds to be in enclosures at least 25 feet away from neighbors, chickens not to be slaughtered and roosters not to be allowed, MacLean said.

"Chickens are a natural insect control and their droppings are good for the compost pile," MacLean said. "We really believe the people of Geneva are forward-thinking people. And once you get the information out there and disinformation and fears out in the open and deal with the facts – it becomes a clearer issue. It's a doable thing no more complicated than raising dogs and cats."

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