One chicken remains in Spitz’s home
Jeff Spitz of Northbrook holds Robert, one of two chickens kept inside his garage coop, in January. Robert died May 20. | Karie Angell Luc~for Sun-Times Media
Should raising chickens be allowed in Northbrook proper?
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:17AM
Robert the Chicken, rest in peace.
Robert died last weekend, probably early on May 20, leaving his buddy Nigel alone in a garage chicken coop.
As of last report, Robert was bagged, taken out and picked up by Veolia.
Nigel and Robert’s story was told in the Northbrook Star when their owners, Jeff and Jennifer Amdur Spitz, admitted they are raising chickens illegally within Northbrook village limits.
It is unlawful to keep chickens on municipal property under five acres.
A revisited residential chicken raising ownership question failed last month when the Northbrook Village Board chose not to pursue it.
The Spitz family’s central Northbrook chicken coop, kept yards from the nearest south lot line, has next-door neighborly approval, their son even “house- sitting” the chickens when the Spitz family asked them to.
Of Robert’s passing: “Well I gotta tell you, it was definitely a big surprise,” said A.J. Spitz, 16, a Glenbrook North High School sophomore.
“When I woke (Sunday morning) about 8:30, I saw Nigel and then I saw Robert on his side. And I saw Nigel kinda of, like, walking around, pecking him a little.
“It looked like Nigel was trying to wake him up or something,” said A.J., who likes his “Egg-in-a-hole” breakfast entrée made with home-raised eggs.
But the “him” in Robert was actually a “she.” When A.J.’s mother welcomed four new chicks last year, all were female.
Jennifer, who didn’t know she was breaking the law, pooled a hatchery order of a dozen chickens, keeping four, then distributing the rest to other Chicagoland chicken-raising enthusiasts.
“It (Northbrook chicken raising) is definitely a hot topic,” said Jennifer.
Two of their four chickens were killed last summer in a dog attack, so the Schwartz were no stranger to this kind of loss.
‘I mean,” said A.J., “It’s a chicken, I just looked down and I realized that chickens just sometimes drop down dead.
“Nigel is the only chicken in Northbrook now.”
“Yeah, I mean, I was just surprised,” Jennifer said.
“We decided not to get a chicken autopsy even though there is someone who would actually do one.
“I was so surprised how sad I was,” she said, noting her other son Sam, 21, a Hamilton, N.Y. Colgate University senior (home from college) was “in a funk.”
“I mean, Robert is a pet and she lays an egg each day and we have one chicken (Nigel) who is one very lonely chicken,” said Jennifer.
Will a new chicken replace Robert?
“You know, it’s not legal,” said Jennifer. “I would have to expand the operation, so I am not sure.”
That would mean new catalogue-ordered hatchlings raised in a box under a lamp indoors. Adult hens new to each other’s company often have chicken fights.
But Jennifer may try.
“We might put a call out to see if someone has one (adult hen). They are flock animals, they don’t like to live alone.
“To have Nigel out there calling and calling and calling for Robert is so sad,” concluded Jennifer.
The Spitz family has not heard from the village. No complaints by cul-de- sac neighbors.
Jeff Spitz notified friends of Robert’s death via Facebook.
“They were as cute as can be,” said Jeff, of Nigel and Robert as two-day-old chicks box-raised for two months.
“Very entertaining,” Jeff said, a Columbia College professor whose “Food Patriots” documentary will be released January, documenting his story and nationwide farm to fork initiatives.
“To me, that was Abbott and Costello,” he said about the duo. “You know, for people who don’t care about chickens, it was ‘Dumb and Dumber.’”
“I’ve done the research and apparently, it’s (chicken death) very common,” added Spitz, citing heart attack or stress. “They just keel over.”
Jeff added, There were some people who were eyeing them (Nigel and Robert) for soup. It’s hard to picture yourself actually cooking your pet and eating it.
“Timing is everything,” he joked.
Humor aside, Robert would have been rejected for human consumption due to unverified safety/death issues.
“There is a shock to this,” said Jeff. “We’re a little numb in figuring this out.”
Footage of Robert and Spitz’s Village Hall discussion are included in “Food Patriots.” View the documentary trailer at http://groundswellfilms.org/food- patriots/.