A limited pilot program will allow rural and small village residents to have backyard chickens.

At its May 29 meeting at the Bradley Centre, Chatham-Kent Council voted 11-6 in favour of developing a pilot program.

Backyard chickens are currently limited to properties zoned as agricultural.

However, an amendment to allow chickens on any property over one acre anywhere in Chatham-Kent was defeated by an 8-9 vote.

The backyard chicken pilot project will involve rural and village residential areas, such as Highgate, Morpeth, Kent Bridge, McKays Corners, and Mull.

However, backyard chickens will not be allowed in communities zoned as ‘Residential,’ including Ridgetown, Thamesville, and Bothwell in East Kent.

Administration will return to council with its proposed bylaw as another round of public consultation with deputations will be required before final approval.

Ward 3 Councillor John Wright expressed safety concerns from local egg farmers to the discussion at the May 29 meeting.

“Egg farmers have to have inspections on their barns through a third party from the (Ontario) Egg Board, and that person is not allowed to go to another farm without showering, changing their overalls and boots,” Wright said.

He said not following these safety precautions is a good way to spread diseases from farm to farm.

“If a flock gets quarantined for bird flu, every (egg) farm in a 10-kilometre circle also has to go under quarantine, and there is quite a process of permits needed to move birds and eggs after the quarantine is lifted,” stated Wright.

Wright said farmers are concerned if local inspectors will follow the same regulations when examining backyard chicken sites and how these flocks will be quarantined in case of a disease outbreak.

“I couldn’t give them an answer,” Wright said.

A letter dated April 29 from the Kent Federation of Agriculture was included in the May 27 agenda. It opposes any bylaw that would allow backyard chickens in urban Chatham-Kent over the risk the Avian Influenza poses to the food supply system.

These concerns prompted Wright to ask that the current restriction of backyard chickens to properties zoned as agricultural remain in place.

However, the council voted in favour of a pilot program over Wright’s preferred status quo and a third option of developing a permanent program.

The draft bylaw states that chickens must stay on their owners’ property in coops if there is no fence, with a minimum distance set back from neighbours. Roosters are not allowed, and feed must be stored in rodent-proof containers.

Owners must pass inspection before they are allowed to have backyard chickens, with a limit to be determined on the number of birds.

A municipal survey conducted in April and May of 2023 showed that 68.4% of the participants favoured residents being allowed to have backyard chickens.

The municipality hosted a public meeting on June 29 in Blenheim to collect public feedback.

At its July 10 meeting, council approved a motion by South Kent Councillor Anthony Ceccacci asking administration to prepare a report on the costs, levels of enforcement, and regulations for adopting a backyard chicken bylaw.

Administration used comments from the public meeting and survey, as well as policies in place in other municipalities, to develop its recommendations for its proposed local backyard chicken solution.

By Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 03, 2024 at 12:25

This item reprinted with permission from   The Independent News   Ridgetown, Ontario
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated