Local councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said a recently approved city pilot project that will allow Ward 32 residents to raise chickens in their backyards is a “good fit” for the community.
“I’m a big supporter of urban agriculture,” said McMahon. The presence of “a lot of environmentally conscious people” in the ward, as well as its three local farmers’ markets, complement the pilot project, she added.
The fledgling project, which council gave the nod to earlier this month, also includes wards 5, 13, and 21.
Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc, who like McMahon has long supported backyard chickens, said city staff now must come up with a set of guidelines for the pilot.
Staff will be looking at what backyard sizes and setbacks from property lines will be appropriate to house chickens. A standard of care will also be established. Mihevc anticipates this process will be completed by next spring.
The pilot project is expected to last up to three years and will be reviewed after 18 months.
Participants will need to be entered into a registry and give the city access to their property for inspections during the pilot.
While chickens aren’t currently permitted at homes in the city, McMahon was quick to mention hens aren’t anything new for her ward. “We do have some hens in our ward already—illegally,” she said.
City bylaw officers only crack down on offenders if somebody complains about the fowls, she explained.
“We have had some hens apprehended in the ward over the years,” McMahon added.
McMahon suggested smells and sounds associated with hens would not be problems, and the pilot project won’t allow people to keep roosters, which could be a nuisance with their crowing.
“I’ve toured yards with backyard hens, and they’re quieter than your neighbour’s dog,” she said. “Your green bin is smellier.”
Mihevc says any public health issues that could arise with chickens are no more serious than with any other domesticated animal.
“If you keep ‘em dirty and don’t maintain them appropriately then of course they will be susceptible to diseases and so will you—that’s the same as a cat or a dog. There’s no additional issues,” he explained.
Rules for slaughtering chickens in backyards will be developed, said Mihevc.
“I have a feeling that some people will develop that skill,” he said. “If you’re practising cruelty, then frankly we do have the tools to go after you as a city.”
Mihevc said he has been getting emails from constituents interested in taking part in the pilot.
“We’re getting a lot of support with a few complaints,” he said.
“Some people feel that chickens belong on farms, which really means factory farms, by the way,” he chirps.