Is It Legal? How the Chicago Municipal Code Affects Urban Homesteading

I’ve been thinking about pigs lately. Certainly not for us this year since we live in an apartment with shared outdoor space, but still – if I owned a house with a decent-sized yard within city limits, could I own a pig or two? The answer is yes – and no. Depends on what you want the pig for, as it turns out. Cruising the Chicago Municipal Code, I came across a lot of good info that I’m going to share here, with my interpretation of the legalese it’s written in. Now keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer or a representative of the city, so if you have a question about any of this stuff you should consult one or the other, just to be on the safe side. But it’s also not rocket science, so I’ll take a stab at explaining some of the more applicable sections for all of us Chicago urban homesteaders.

Livestock

7-12-300 Ban of unlicensed possession of animals for slaughter.

No person shall own, keep or otherwise possess, or slaughter any sheep, goat, pig, cow or the young of such species, poultry, rabbit, dog, cat, or any other animal, intending to use such animal for food purposes.

This section is applicable to any cult that kills (sacrifices) animals for any type of ritual, regardless of whether or not the flesh or blood of the animal is to be consumed; except that Kosher slaughtering is exempted from this ordinance.

Nothing in this ordinance is to be interpreted as prohibiting any licensed establishment from slaughtering for food purposes any animals which are specifically raised for food purposes.

Agents of the Chicago commission on animal care and control, police officers and humane investigators of any agency licensed by the City of Chicago and/or the Illinois Department of Agriculture for the prevention of cruelty to animals shall have the authority to confiscate any and all animals kept in violation of this ordinance. Enforcement personnel shall have the authority to enter any business premises during normal business hours where an animal or animals described in this ordinance are being housed or kept, but shall only enter domiciles or businesses during nonbusiness hours after obtaining a proper search warrant or permission to enter from the occupant or owner of such premises.

Any person found to have been in violation of this section shall be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $1,000.00 for each offense. When a person keeps, owns or slaughters more than one animal in violation of this ordinance, the unlawful keeping, owning or slaughtering of each animal will be considered a separate offense for the purposes of this ordinance.

This is basically saying that you can own any kind of livestock – chicken, goats, pigs, bees – as long as you do not intend to raise it in order to kill it for food (or other purposes). So, you can own chickens for eggs, goats for milk, pigs as pets and bees for honey. There aren’t any restrictions on how many you can own, what type of housing you need to provide, etc. But keep in mind that you must be in compliance with other ordinances as they would apply – your animals can’t be a public nuisance (offensively smelly, running wild, making excessive noise, etc.). And you’ll want to be sure that any structures you build for them are in compliance with building codes and permits.

The only type of livestock that is specifically prohibited is pigeons. I know, not really what we think of as livestock, but if you were interested in raising your own squab for the dinner table, I guess you can’t –

7-12-387 Restrictions on pigeons.

(a) For purposes of this section only the following definition applies:

“Pigeon” means any live bird of the Family Columbidae.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, own, keep or otherwise possess any live pigeon within any area designated as a residence district under the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. Nothing in this subsection prohibits any person from transporting a live pigeon through a residential district, if the pigeon is caged during transport and not released in a residential district.

(c) It shall be unlawful for any person to construct or maintain any coop or cote that is, or may be used for the storage, maintenance or sheltering of any live pigeon within any area designated as a residence district under the Chicago Zoning Ordinance.

(d) The provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of this section shall not apply to the keeping of pigeons as part of an exhibit at either Lincoln Park Zoo or the zoo at Indian Boundary Park.

(e) Violation of any portion of this section shall constitute a public nuisance, which may be abated pursuant to the procedures described in section.

Home-Based Businesses

4-380-070 Prohibited activities/other licenses.

(a) The following activities may not be licensed as home occupations in accordance with this chapter: any repair of motorized vehicles, including the painting or repair of automobiles, trucks, trailers, boats, and lawn equipment; animal hospitals; astrology, card reading, palm reading or fortune-telling in any form; kennels; stables; bird keeping facilities; dancing schools; restaurants; massage establishments; catering/food preparation businesses; funeral chapels or homes; crematoria; mausoleums; any facility where products are manufactured, produced or assembled when the home occupation licensee is not the retail point of sale for such products; public places of amusement; the sale of firearms or ammunition; caterers; construction businesses or landscaping businesses that provide the storage of goods and materials to be utilized in the operation of the business or use; warehousing; and welding or machine shops; provided, however, that nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the performance of emergency medical services in a residential dwelling.

Ever wonder if you can sell your home made baked goods or jams and jellies? Unfortunately it’s still illegal in Chicago to produce food products for sale in home kitchens. Food products made for sale must be created in a licensed, inspected commercial kitchen. Fortunately, until the laws change, there’s a commercial community kitchen here in the city called Logan Square Kitchen where you can make food for resale. They charge $25.00 per hour for use of the pastry kitchen and $35.oo per house for use of the regular (dining) kitchen, with a minimum of two hours required for both. That’s not a bad price and it’s run by local people, so all in all it’s worth looking into if you bake amazing bread or can delectable jellies that you’d like to try your hand at selling.

And it’s worth noting that if enough Chicagoans get together to rally for the right to run a sustainable cottage business from our own kitchens, we could try to change the laws, just like they did in Washington State, where Governor Gregoire signed a bill making it legal to make food for sale in home kitchens.

Hunting

8-24-050 Hunting.

Any person licensed to hunt under the provisions of The Illinois Wildlife Code, as amended, may hunt or kill game birds in the open season as provided by the laws of the state, within the following prescribed districts and portions of the city: upon Wolf Lake and along the shores thereof; upon Lake Calumet and along the shores thereof; and upon the Calumet River and along the banks thereof.

Provided, however, that no weapons shall be used for the purpose of hunting such birds, or killing or wounding, or attempting to kill or wound such birds, other than a shotgun, and that such shotgun shall not be discharged anywhere within 750 feet of (1) any building or structure used or intended for human habitation or employment, or to be used as a barn or stable; or (2) the centerline of the right-of-way of Stony Island Avenue.

Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $100.00 nor more than $250.00.

Interestingly, there are places with in city limits where you can hunt birds. Who knew?

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