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Learn all about the birds and the bees at Urban Livestock Expo

Three chickens in a coop

Some Chicagoans are raising animals not as pets but for food, be it eggs, milk or honey. | Flickr

From chickens to bees to ducks to goats, Chicagoans are raising animals in their backyards not as pets but for food, be it eggs, milk or honey.

Are you curious, but have no idea where to start?

A free Urban Livestock Expo on Saturday at the Southside Occupational Academy is designed to help people learn before they leap.

Chicago has relatively few restrictions when it comes to raising livestock, a leniency that gives people plenty of options but also places a heavy burden on common sense and education, said Laura Calvert, executive director of the nonprofit group Advocates for Urban Agriculture, the expo’s sponsor.

“Do your research,” Calvert stressed.

Representatives from nearly 20 organizations will be on hand at the expo to provide guidance on everything from where to sign up for a hands-on beekeeping class to whether roosters are legal (yes, but they’re strongly discouraged).

The expo will also include presentations specific to chickens, bees, ducks and goats, covering topics such as ideal breeds and daily care.

Chickens and bees tend to be the least intimidating point of entry for most people, in large part because smaller creatures don’t need as much space, Calvert said.

But every animal requires a level of commitment from its owners and comes with its own set of issues. Chicken keepers will need to think about how to dispose of manure, for example, and beekeepers are likely to face questions from neighbors fearful of stinging insects.

“You’ve got to want to do it,” said Martha Boyd, one of the expo’s organizers and longtime moderator of the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts discussion group, which hosts an annual coop tour in the fall.

“I don’t think it’s for everybody,” Boyd said. “It’s a responsibility to a living creature.”

Along with providing an introduction to the ins and outs of raising livestock in Chicago, the expo’s most important service is in connecting people with communities of like-minded keepers, she said.

Newcomers would be wise to tap into these groups for first-hand information and support, Boyd said.

“Chicken people are so nice,” she said. “We really urge people to see [a coop] in person, for their sake and for the chicken’s sake.”

The Urban Livestock Expo will take place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Southside Occupational Academy, 7432 S. Hoyne Ave.