Defers decision on urban chickens until May
By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A bylaw to allow backyard chickens in urban and semi-urban areas in Chatham-Kent is still up in the air.
At its Feb. 6 meeting, council voted to send the issue to administration for further study, including undertaking a public survey on Let’s Talk C-K.
Staff is also directed to seek input from Chatham-Kent Public Health and Pet and Wildlife Rescue and to explore how other municipalities handle the issue. The report is to come back to council in May.
The issue surfaced again recently following a motion by South Kent Coun. Anthony Ceccacci to examine the issue.
Ceccacci said he’s received input from constituents from “both sides” adding a “data-driven decision” by council must be based on what’s best for all of Chatham-Kent.
Adequate input from the public hasn’t been gathered, Ceccacci said.
“I think what we haven’t done in the past is to give the forum to the community to allow for their consultation,” he told council.
Ceccacci said that while there has been some discussion over “immediate amendments” to the bylaw, the process isn’t simple and will come with additional costs which need to be examined.
Under the current bylaw, backyard chickens are only allowed on land zoned for agriculture.
Five deputations, including an 1,800-signature petition, were presented to council at the start of the meeting in favour of allowing backyard chickens.
One Shrewsbury man, in danger of losing his birds if the bylaw isn’t changed, asked council to amend the bylaw, as he and his wife want to pass on the values of chicken rearing to their children.
Agriculturist Ken Walton also made the case for the backyard chickens, saying it’s a way to preserve natural farming heritage, while providing fresh and locally sourced meat and eggs.
West Kent Coun. Lauren Anderson said that after talking with the public and other councillors, further consultation probably won’t change anyone’s mind.
“I don’t think any study is going to sway anyone’s decision, one way or another,” Anderson said.
East Kent Coun. Steve Pinsonneault said he’s hearing that “a lot” of people want to be allowed to raise chickens, and agreed public input is necessary.
However, he cautioned that loud roosters can’t be part of the equation.
East Kent’s other councillor also chimed in. John Wright said the wording in the motion should be changed from chickens to “hens” to ensure no loud roosters are allowed.
Chief Administrative Officer Michael Duben said administration will look at what other municipalities are doing, including the costs associated with enforcing a new chicken-related bylaw.
It’s not the first time local politicians have tangled with the chicken issue. Most recently in 2020, council turned down the idea, citing potential problems of odour, waste and vermin as reasons for the no vote.