Feathers ruffled over urban chickens in South Stormont

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Feathers ruffled over urban chickens in South Stormont
Stock photo of chickens.

LONG SAULT, Ontario – The allowance of urban chickens or backyard hens was a hot topic of discussion during the South Stormont Public Meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18, where approx. 100 community members attended to discuss local zoning by-law concerns.

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“Urban chickens or backyard hens are becoming popular among those who want to keep them for pets, therapy purposes, eggs, etc. The keeping of livestock in any residential zone is currently prohibited in the zoning by-law – this includes chickens. (The) Township has received many requests each year to consider allowing chickens to be kept in residential zones/urban areas. Many municipalities throughout Ontario have allowed chickens in urban areas, either as a permitted use or through limited pilot programs,” read a Township statement, preceding a public discussion.

Jesse McPhail, Community Planner, added that Council was also considering potential impacts of noise, odor and aesthetics concerning chickens. He discussed the potential of a backyard hen pilot program, usually including common restrictions such as two to five chickens, no roosters, mandatory requirements for coop enclosures and rodent proofing. Currently, chickens are permitted everywhere except residential zones in the municipality.

“We did receive one comment against having chickens in residential areas and villages, and they cited issues to do with noise…as well as smells…(Council doesn’t) really have any concrete suggestions at this point…now we are looking at the community to see if there is an appetite for this,” said McPhail.

Residents were divided on the topic, many thinking a pilot project would lay an egg while others shared positive experiences of owning chickens.

“I’m sorry, I have my own livestock, and chickens belong in the country…maybe out in the country if they have a half acre lot away from people, fine, but in the community, its going to bring in fox, raccoons, skunks. You’re going to have a bigger problem bringing these chickens into an urban area than just the neighbours being pissed off because it stinks,” said resident Chris Edgar.

Many residents like Lynn White questioned the results of pilot projects in other municipalities, as well as the exact definition of urban and rural in the context of the by-law.

“I don’t see anything against this…I don’t see any reason why not if you’re as clean as I am. It’s a good experience for kids,” said resident Vanessa Stabler, who discussed many benefits of having chickens, including children spending less time on electronics and more time outdoors, educating themselves on animal care.

Similarly, Stacey and Stephane Grondin shared their positive experience owning chickens, including a reliable, holistic food source (eggs), community bonding and fun for children.

“Only good has come from this,” said Stacey Grondin.

“I dealt with this issue. Of different people I have talked to…nobody approves of it. The other thing is, it would make a lot of people upset if this was passed…I’ve heard people say, it’s residential area, it’s not farmland…people say to me, lower our taxes if it’s going to be farmland…a lot of people are upset about this,” said resident Brent Cameron.

Council will discuss the topic and draw conclusions as to urban chicken by-laws at a later date.

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