A municipal decision on whether to allow backyard chickens in urban Chatham-Kent has been postponed yet again.

Following a motion by South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci, council voted 11 to 4 to refer the issue back to administration for further study with a report to come back to council in spring 2024.

At the July 10 meeting, Ceccacci acknowledged that deferring the backyard chicken decision might be unpopular, but said “saying yes or no” right now is premature.

“There’s too many variables when it comes to costing, as well as a lot of variables when it comes to enforcements and all that,” Ceccacci explained, adding he didn’t think “we’re at a spot right now with the avian flu and a lot of the concerns.

“We need to have all the information in place.”

The councillor said a new report would examine the costs of the program and whether administration would support urban backyard chickens. It will also examine how other areas carry out and monitor backyard chicken programs in urban settings, include an update from public health on the avian flu, and also involves putting out request for proposals later this year to agencies such as PAWR that are capable of enforcing a chicken bylaw in order to determine costs.

A friendly amendment from North Kent Coun. Rhonda Jubenville also directs administration to consider and investigate the possibility of an urban backyard chicken pilot program for Chatham-Kent.

Other councillors chimed in. Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy said if a backyard chicken initiative goes forward, the municipality could charge a permit fee.

Bondy pointed out that residents pay for dog tags, and chickens could be part of a similar system.

He said that after reading the comments that were submitted as part of a public survey, many residents are concerned that backyard chicken owners won’t take care of them.

“If they have to pay some money to do so, then I think people would take it more seriously,” Bondy said.

South Kent Coun. Ryan Doyle agreed the practice should carry some sort of cost.

Perhaps, he said, prospective backyard chicken owners could sign a document entering into a three-strike agreement, meaning it would be easier to remove the chickens if proper care isn’t taken.

The urban backyard chicken issue has become a hot topic, with agricultural lobby groups taking a strong stand against it. A Let’s Talk CK survey on the matter garnered nearly 5,000 responses from local citizens with 68 per cent saying they approve of allowing backyard chickens in the municipality’s urban area. However, less than half of respondents said they were interested in raising chickens themselves.

A public meeting on the issue was held in Blenheim recently, with both sides of the matter taking a stand. Egg and poultry producers in Chatham-Kent are worried that backyard chickens will increase the threat of disease, such as avian flu, which could wipe out their operations. On the other side, residents want the right to raise their own eggs and meat, as well as being allowed to engage in a sustainable practice many take pleasure in. 

In the past decade, former iterations of C-K council have twice turned down the idea of urban backyard chickens.

By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 17, 2023 at 10:58

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chatham Voice   Chatham, Ontario
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