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Can you keep backyard chickens in McHenry County?

Keeping a chicken coop in your backyard is a phenomenal way to not only enjoy the freshest eggs you could possibly taste, but also build upon your home garden, possibly even creating a homestead out of your very own yard. Keeping chickens means that you get to check another thing off your grocery list, relying on yourself for another grocery staple. Keep chickens, grow some spinach, green onion and peppers, and you can have yourself the freshest homegrown omelette every single day—save from the artifacts of the industrial food system, like preservatives, added salt and inorganic chemicals.

But how can you even know if your local government permits backyard chicken keeping? Unfortunately for our customers who live within city limits of Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, etc. keeping chickens in your backyard may not be possible. Luckily for our customers who live within unincorporated McHenry County or certain parts of unincorporated Lake County, chicken keeping is allowed within specific parameters.

For the McHenry County area, you must live in unincorporated McHenry County and meet the following criteria:

  • No person may keep more than six (6) chickens on any property at one time.

  • No commercial activity will result from the keeping of chickens on the property.

  • Roosters are not permitted. However, if the gender of a chick cannot be determined at hatching, a chick of either gender may be kept on the property for no more than six (6) months.

  • Chickens shall be kept in coops and fenced runs at all times. Chickens shall be kept in coops from dusk to dawn.

  • Chicken coops and runs shall meet the following standards:

    • Chicken coops and runs shall be kept in the effective rear yard and shall be located at least ten (10) feet from any lot line and ten (10) feet from any other structure.

    • The facility shall be kept in good repair, maintenance in a clean and sanitary condition, and free of vermin, obnoxious odors, and substances.

    • The facility shall not create a nuisance or disturb neighboring residents due to noise, odor, damage, or threats to public health.

    • The chicken coop and run shall be designed to ensure the health and well-being of the animal is not endangered by the manner of keeping or confinement.

    • The chicken coop and run shall be adequately lighted and ventilated.

    • No storage of chicken manure is permitted within twenty (20) feet of the lot line.

    • Slaughter of chickens on-site is prohibited.

  • Failure to comply may result in fines up to $500 per week for each week the violation continues.

If you meet these criteria and live within unincorporated McHenry County, then you can print and fill out this form and submit it to the McHenry County Department of Planning and Development. If approved, then get ready to enjoy the freshest and most nutritious eggs that you’ll be able to source, and a steady supply at that. Once you get your chicken coop set up, you’re on your way to creating a self-sustaining homestead of your very own.

Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center is a full service landscape center and nursery located in Cary, Illinois. Stop in today to schedule a Spring 2022 cleanup. (Updated: 1/28/22)

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