PEKIN — Changes to Tazewell County's rules regarding backyard chickens kept in residential areas have cleared the first hurdle.

The county's land use committee on Tuesday approved rules modifications proposed by Kristal Bachman, the county's community development administrator, and sent them to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a public hearing.

The ZBA will send its recommendations on the rules changes back to the land use committee, which will pass along the rules changes to the County Board for a vote.

Among the major changes to the rules, originally adopted in 2012, are more lenient regulations regarding the number of chickens that can be kept at a residence, which must be a single-family home occupied full time.

Six chickens would be the maximum for a lot between 10,000 square feet and two acres. A lot between 2.01 and 5 acres could have eight chickens, and a lot between 5.01 and 9.99 acres could have 10 chickens.

Lot size and the number of chickens allowed were the major concerns of rural Mackinaw residents Cindy Ragon and Jenifer Joliff, who approached county officials earlier this year after they learned they were violating the county's backyard chicken rules.

Each woman lives on a lot that is about a quarter-acre in the Heritage Lake subdivision. Ragon's family has five baby chickens and Joliff's family has six baby chickens. The chickens were purchased in March.

"If everything stays the same with the lot rules changes, we'll be in compliance with the county," Joliff said after Tuesday's meeting as Ragon nodded in agreement.

A special-use permit is required by the county to have backyard chickens in a residential area. Neither Ragon nor Joliff has gone through that process.

Bachman has proposed raising the application fee for a backyard chicken special-use permit from $150 to $300.

"That brings the fee in line with other special-use requests," she said. "Staff time is needed to process each request."

A new county backyard chicken rule requires coops and fenced enclosures for chickens to be at least 30 feet away from most structures on an adjoining parcel.

Structures on the minimum distance list include dwellings, patios, porches, gazebos, decks and swimming pools. Not on the list are storage structures such as unattached garages and sheds.

The Zoning Board of Appeals could lengthen the minimum distance as a condition of an applicant getting a special-use permit.

Another new county backyard chicken rule prohibits the sale of chickens or eggs on the premises.

Bachman said she looked at backyard chicken rules adopted by East Peoria and nearby counties that are comparable to Tazewell before making her rules recommendations.

Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.