The Hen Houses of Homewood

  Chickens at the Majewski hen house are let out of
  the coop for a time, giving them freedom to roam
  and eat. Deb Majewski said catching them once
  they’ve been out is a hard job.
(Photos by
  Brittney Ermon/H-F Chronicle)
 

They can be found every day in stores and freezers in Homewood and are a common addition to dinner plates.

And surprisingly, some local residents also have them in their backyards. 

  Rachel Middleton grabs
  one of her hens from
  her garden. She uses
  their manure as fertilizer
  which she says works
  well because of the high
  nitrogen content and
  balanced nutrients.

 

Racheal Middleton is one of 18 Homewood residents raising chickens. She currently has six, which is the limit set by the village. Middleton has been a gardener her entire life and grows everything from raspberries to potatoes.

For her, chickens just “fit into the puzzle.”

“I need manure producers,” she said. “Chickens have slightly more benefits than rabbits, like eggs.”

And — tongue firmly in cheek — she says they can be turned into a dinner entrée “if they aren’t behaving.”

Middleton’s initiative is also one of the main reasons why chickens are allowed in Homewood.

In 2015, she and a group of gardeners drafted an ordinance that would allow chickens. They decided against roosters because they’re too loud and they wanted to make sure they addressed residents’ concerns.

  Ray Majewski opens the
  back of the ‘Hobbit House’
  to check for freshly laid
  eggs. He normally checks
  around noon each day. 

 

There are ordinance requirements for the chicken coop, feeding and grazing area and maintenance of the premises. For example, the chicken coop can only be a maximum of 24 sq. ft. in area and 6 feet in height. It also has to be 1 inch off the ground. 

Hens must be kept within a chicken coop between dusk and dawn and a building permit is required. There also are rules that hens cannot produce loud noises; coops should be clean and presentable; and the eggs cannot be sold. 

Middleton said the most expensive part of the process was housing the chickens because the chickens themselves only cost $3.50 each. 

“Sometimes people think you have to treat them like pets,” she said. “They’re not like my dogs, I don’t take them to the vet.”

But, she explained, they’re actually pretty similar to people. 

“They all have different personalities,” she said. “Some are really aggressive and others are fun and hilarious.”

  Deb Majewski sits in front
  of the “Hobbit House” and
  watches the chickens and
  she calls it “relaxing.”
  The chicken coop was
  built by her husband,
  Ray Majewski. 

 

Middleton said she understands people may think it’s odd to have chickens, but no one complains. She encourages people to come see her space and ask any questions they may have.
 
“I’m trying to do this and be a good neighbor,” she said. “They [the chickens] certainly fit in with a nice, tidy suburban area.”  

Deb Majewski has had her backyard fowl since they were two-day-old chicks. She said she disposes of the manure and uses the hens solely for laying eggs. The chickens regularly lay six eggs a day by noon. 

“We keep some, but also give them away to neighbors and family,” she said. “I’ve never made so many omelettes and fried eggs in my life.” 

She has two favorites, Bertha and Raven. The chickens vary in shape and color and each has a different sound.

However, Majewski said they have one thing in common: they’re all relaxing to watch. 

“They’re creatures of habit and don’t change their routine,” she said. “Humans have such busy schedules, but chickens just do their own thing.”

  Deb and Ray Majewski
  with eggs from their
  Hobbit-style henhouse.
  Deb says the hens produce
  about six eggs every day.

 

Chickens can be fed anything from green plants to insects. She said the biggest problems they’ve had are the coyotes and hawks that come around to try and eat them. But thanks to her husband, Ray Majewski, the chickens are protected. He built the chicken coop to look like a Hobbit house and made sure it was sturdy. He put rabbit wire 18 inches beneath the chicken coop so predators can’t get to them.

Majewski said she doesn’t want the chickens to think she’s a predator either because she’s not interested in eating them. Chickens normally have a lifespan of about 15 years. 

“I don’t want to kill them. That’s not my purpose for them,” she said. “I already found a farm where I can take them if I need to.”

Majewski explained having chickens in the suburbs may be different, but she loves it. She said the chickens aren’t a bother to anyone and there haven’t been any complaints.

“We have kids next door and they love them,” she said. “It’s just really nice to have them.”

Homewood residents who wish to apply for a personal poultry license can pick up an application at village hall. 

In Flossmoor the only chickens that are allowed are frozen or cooked. 

Chapter 107 of the village code states “it is unlawful to keep, maintain, harbor or possess” a number of animal species. Chickens are on the list along with cattle, horses, goats, hogs and various wild animals. 

Assistant Village Manger Allison Deitch said that in the past community members have come forward to ask the Flossmoor village board to consider allowing chickens. But, the ban remains in effect. 

However in May, the Green Committee, a subcommittee of the Community Relations Commission, discussed the possibility of allowing chickens in Flossmoor. The committee made a recommendation to the commission that chickens be permitted in the village. The Community Relations Commission discussed the idea and voted to recommend allowing the birds in Flossmoor. That recommendation has been forwarded to the village board.

Deitch said the board plans to discuss the proposal. She explained that it’s likely to not be an easy discussion because board members are not sure how the community will react. 

“Since we have a lot on our plate we haven’t brought it forward, but they’ll probably consider it later this year,” she said. 

So chickens may cross the road and make it to the other side. But for now Flossmoor residents will have to wait and see whether they are allowed in the village.

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as the Homewood Chronicle (but we soon realized Homewood and Flossmoor are so interconnected that it makes better sense to cover both villages). Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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Flossmoor, IL 60422