Who wants to keep chickens in their back yard?

by Gregg Chamberlain - EAP
Who wants to keep chickens in their back yard?
Raising a few chickens in the backyard is becoming popular among many homeowners in some municipalities. Champlain Township council asked administration to set up a public consultation process to determine if there is much interest among local residents in the idea. (Photo : Pixabay)

Keeping a couple of chickens in the backyard is becoming popular in other municipalities and Champlain Township wants to know how many of its residents would like to take up the practice.

“We’ve had interest expressed from a number of residents,” said Jennifer Laforest, township chief planner, during the June 22 council session.

The township does not have a policy dealing with raising chickens in a non-agricultural setting. Any policies that exist for farm animals are based on provincial guidelines for commercial farm and hobby farm operations. These would apply to actual agricultural operations in the rural areas of the municipality. Residents who live outside of the villages on land zoned as rural must have a lot that is at least two hectares, or five acres, in size to qualify as a farm property where chickens or other livestock are allowed.

Laforest’s report noted that the township receives at least five calls a year from residents asking if they can keep a few chickens on their property for their own use, and not for the purpose of selling eggs. She researched other municipalities that have backyard poultry policies, including Russell and Alfred-Plantagenet townships and major cities like Edmonton and Vancouver. The average number of poultry allowed is four for properties that range in size from 250 square metres to about 2000 square metres. Almost all municipalities require a licence for their residents to keep a few hens or other poultry in their backyard. The licence fee ranges from $50 to $75, depending on the municipality.

“We are proposing a licensing program,” Laforest said, adding that her department is working with the bylaw department on guidelines for a pilot program that would help determine if a permanent policy for backyard hens within the township is feasible.

She noted that any licence approval would include a condition that enclosures are designed to be secure and also humane so “the hens are happy”. Another condition is that hens only are allowed as part of a backyard poultry project. Keeping roosters is not allowed.

Council voted to accept the report and directed administration to set up a public consultation process to determine how much actual interest and support exists in the township for a backyard hens policy.

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