Council to Study Backyard Chickens

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 26, 2012

Kudos to City Council for overturning last week's planning committee decision and directing staff to study urban chickens before drawing a conclusion about whether the ban on keeping chickens within city limits should remain in place.

At its January 12, 2012 meeting, the Planning Committee rejected a proposal to have staff investigate the implications of allowing backyard chickens on the grounds that "at the end of the day, we're just going to shut it down anyway," as Councillor Lloyd Ferguson put it.

As a result, Hamilton resident Teresa Gregario launched an online petition calling on Council to change its mind and take a more evidence-based approach. As of this writing, the petition has 544 signatories.

Supporters argue that backyard chickens pose no more risk to public health than cats or dogs and that hens are considerably quieter than dogs. On the other hand, backyard chickens allow for local food, greater self-sufficiency and the opportunity for children to learn where their food comes from.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2012 at 08:30:31

Awesome news. Does someone have the standing vote breakdown? Who were the 10 and who were the 6? Other than the three whose comments stood out, who do advocators need to 'work' on most?

Seems like some clrs didn't have a lot if any input from their direct constituents.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-01-26 09:14:18

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By Lisa (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2012 at 08:35:59 in reply to Comment 73317

There's a list of how the vote went at the bottom of the article.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2012 at 08:34:47

As a side note, the previous article asked us to cc the city clerk. That means she should be able to provide us with a total email count and how many per clr correct? Is that info available/valuable to us?

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-01-26 09:11:23

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2012 at 08:42:34

Results as reported by The Spec and as noted above by Lisa, of last nights standing council vote on this issue:

In favour of studying urban chickens (10):

Brian McHattie, Jason Farr, Bernie Morelli, Sam Merulla, Chad Collins, Tom Jackson, Brenda Johnson, Russ Powers, Robert Pasuta, Judi Partridge

Against (6):

Mayor Bob Bratina, Scott Duvall, Terry Whitehead, Brad Clark, Maria Pearson, Lloyd Ferguson

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-01-26 09:09:21

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 26, 2012 at 09:49:12 in reply to Comment 73320

I guess I can understand why Councillor Ferguson has to vote against this. They just started allowing clotheslines in Ancaster....a big jump to chickens.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-01-26 09:49:23

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:03:35 in reply to Comment 73325

Clotheslines were never banned in Ancaster. It's just a rumour started by Ancaster residents who were rendered into fits at seeing bright coloured knickers flapping in the breeze.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2012 at 14:44:53

What is the big deal if it is done properly? This is nothing more than old becoming new again. My great grandmother lived on Ferguson Avenue North and owned several adjoining lots. She kept a huge garden which fed her family, and raised hens which provided eggs and poultry to not just hers but the entire neighborhood.

This was during ..... oh yes thats right The Great Depression, where many people were struggling to make ends meet, find employment, feed themselves.

Study it, provide some guidelines, then get out of peoples lives.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted January 26, 2012 at 18:33:09

Are there any well thought out critiques against urban chickens floating around out there, or are they all arguments that have already been dispelled?

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By Jeff_Stock (registered) | Posted January 26, 2012 at 19:48:54

Bad news from our sister city:

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By Anonymously (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 14:28:58

We're ecstatic with the outcome. The city is now going to do what it promised in the first place.

Keep your eye on for more going on in the story.

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By Anonymously (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 14:29:56 in reply to Comment 73420

Sorry, that's

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By Cluck (anonymous) | Posted January 27, 2012 at 21:04:39

There is a little clucking and scratching. Sustainability a big word being thrown about. Consider, the cost of building a chicken coup, buying feed and having fresh water, including insuring it's not ice during the winter months. Finding someone to take care of them when your not there. All of this for, maybe, four chickens. Not sure one could call that self-sustainable and with some throwing out the idea of free range chickens, that should prove interesting as I am not sure that's has been allowed in any urban area.

If you want to have a greater sense of sustainability take the area that your going to build and sustain your chickens and turn it into a garden. Fresh veggies, they bother no-one, no odor and certainly this have no impact on anyone and safer for your children.


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By Grackle (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2012 at 14:23:01

Seems like PHS has gone from negative to provisionally neutral.

"Public Health Services’ review included an assessment of the risks and benefits of keeping chickens in urban areas. It has been determined that, while some municipalities allow chickens in urban areas under very strict conditions, keeping and maintaining chickens in backyards within an urban setting is not without risk. These risks could be mitigated by following good practices to safeguard disease transmission and through a regulatory tool such as a an urban chicken by-law or through amendments to the City’s Responsible Animal Ownership By-law 12-031....

In addition to the consultation undertaken by Public Health Services, staff contacted four Ontario municipalities which allow chickens to be kept in urban areas, and can summarize the findings as follows:
* all have by-laws which include requirements as to number of chickens allowed, location and size of coop, lot sizes and distance restrictions, etc.; and,
* those municipalities report that they receive few complaints; less than five per year each, which is attributed to the fact few urban residents are actually keeping chickens. The general consensus is that distance restrictions disqualify a number of residential lots and “its just too much work” for most people. Those that do choose to keep chickens abide by the regulations in order to be good neighbours and avoid complaints.

Should Council deem it appropriate to invest significant time and resources into further exploration of the issue, staff could prepare a comprehensive by-law and details related to the staffing and financial resources that would be required to oversee and regulate the keeping of chickens in urban areas of the City.

If Committee/Council decide not to pursue further work on permitting urban chickens by By-law amendments, this matter can be deemed complete and removed from the Planning Committee Outstanding Business List."

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By Grackle (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2012 at 18:26:14 in reply to Comment 83446


Urban Chickens is voted down and committee says no further action. @Councillor_Farr made a strong argument. #YHMpoli #HamOnt

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By Grackle (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2012 at 18:19:14 in reply to Comment 83446

I think my main concern with this is just animal welfare. Chickens may be just as safe as companion animals, but backyard coops should still be licensed and inspected, and people held accountable if they are bad stewards.

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