Backyard chickens - Will they play in Peoria?

Sruthi Yejju
Daniel and Destiny Herrmann raise chickens outside Dunlap. They say it is a fun job, sometimes. Other times it is a responsibility.

“Some days it’s fun, some days it’s responsibility,” said 11-year-old Daniel Herrmann, in reference to the chicken coop in his family’s backyard.

Daniel and his sister, Destiny, 8, are responsible for the care of the chickens in the backyard of their farmhouse, on the outskirts of Dunlap.

They may not be alone if the “backyard chicken” craze gripping the country takes hold here.

According to Tractor Supply Co., the backyard chicken movement is gaining popularity as consumers seek to control costs and quality.

The Herrmanns have 20 chickens and one rooster, all of them nearly one year old. They have 12 California Highline Whites and nine Golden Comet Browns.

Daniel and Destiny’s mother, Renee, said caring for the chickens is a good way for the children to have some responsibilities. Both the youths agreed that it was a fun thing to do, and make some pocket money, too.

A press release from Tractor Supply Co. said more American families are getting into the “Backyard Chicken” movement to gain greater control of what they put on the dinner table.

Renee said she prefers her family to have farm-fresh eggs, which are believed by many to be healthier because of the chickens access to fresh grass.

Daniel and Destiny collect the eggs from their chicken coop every morning and sell them to their neighbors for $2 a dozen. They get both white and brown eggs.

“We need to clean the coop, put in clean straw, provide food and water and collect eggs,” Daniel said, summing up their chores with regards to the chicken coop.

“Sometimes it is a lot of work, but it is fun,” he said.

Destiny added that the chickens peck at them when they go to collect the eggs, but the pecking does not hurt much.

“The whites are more aggressive than the browns,” she said.

Renee added that roosters are very territorial in nature and, therefore, they have just the one.

Daniel and Destiny are two among four siblings.

They have a few cows and pigs, and they grow corn and soy beans in their farm.

Daniel said he would like to be a farmer when he grows up but he is not sure if he would want to raise chickens or not.

Destiny said she would.

They are both home-schooled.

Daniel likes to play the piano in his spare time while Destiny likes to “go to a quiet place and imagine things.”

Tractor Supply’s area stores are having a Chick Days event through April 25, where new poultry pioneers can buy chicks.

According to Tractor Supply, some essential planning is necessary prior to buying the first chicks and starting a backyard chicken coop.

The starting point is ensuring compliance with local ordinances.

You may be able to buy chickens in Peoria, but you cannot raise them in the city limits unless you live on a lot zoned agricultural. In Peoria Heights, there is no livestock allowed within 300 feet of a property line. But, there are no ordinances specifically addressing chickens.

Dunlap has no specific ordinance concerning the raising of chickens in the village limits. The village, in these cases follows the county’s ordinances which do not regulate agricultural animals.   

Daniel explained that when they first bought the chicks home, they had to keep them in a cardboard box to keep them warm and feed them.

Once the chicks were a few weeks old, they were transferred to the coop. The coop has to be well-constructed and well-insulated to keep the chickens warm.

He said “pellet” feed is the best kind to feed them, as it is easier for the chickens to pick up when the feed falls on the ground. Destiny added excitedly that they eat bugs and insects too.

Daniel also said that eggs can freeze and crack in winter, so it is imperative to collect daily.

Renee added that a dozen chicks would be a good number to get started. She said that as they grow older, their productivity naturally reduces.

It is also necessary to keep the chickens safe from predators. Daniel said that two of their chickens disappeared one day and were probably taken by a coyote.

The Herrmanns have a cat and according to Renee, the chickens can hold their own with a cat.

She also said that the rooster can be noisy as he starts crowing at the crack of dawn, but they have all got used to it and it doesn’t wake them up anymore. She said the chickens’ clucking is not so audible either and there are ways to deal with the smell.

“So it really is up to whoever wants to have it in their backyard. For us it is fun and productive. However, we don’t know if everyone will share the same feeling,” said.

“But it is expensive to get started,” she said, adding that it is costly to build a coop. She also said she would not have taken on the responsibility of the chicken coop on her own.

“As long as it is the kids who are doing the work and are responsible for it, I am happy,” she said.

For more information about raising chickens, visit the Web site: TractorSupply.com/ChickDays.