Urban chicken motion doesn’t fly with council

© Can Stock Photo / Smit

Chickens will not be making their way into Chatham-Kent backyards anytime soon.

On Monday night council voted against a motion that to have administration bring a report back to council regarding urban chickens, along with a draft by-law that would have allowed up to four chickens per single-family dwelling in urban and rural residential areas.

Authier, along with several other councillors, said he had heard mostly positive feedback about allowing backyard hens.

“I’ve received numerous emails and I’m not going to lie, there were a few against [the motion]. But there were more for it,” he said. “Just before this meeting, I happened to be on Facebook and I noticed there happened to be an actual petition from someone wanting to bring it to council.”

Councillor Doug Sulman rebutted, claiming that on the contrary he’s heard from several residents who were strongly against the idea. He added that he himself is also opposed to bringing chickens into urban areas.

“I’ve been told so many times in that last 20 years that Chatham-Kent is basically a rural area. There are lots of areas around here where if you want to have a house that’s in a rural area, you want to raise chickens, there’s great opportunities for that,” said Sulman. “But it’s not in an urban area because it’s not that person who wants to have their children count eggs, it’s not about that, its about all their neighbours.”

Sulman also questioned how the by-law would be policed if it passes, calling the concept illogical and foolish. Councillor Trevor Thompson also expressed concern for the by-law and the precedent it would set.

“To be honest I’m less concerned about the animals and I’m more concerned about the people. We know that by-laws can be weaponized… we know that all the owners aren’t going to be good owners, we know chickens are going to get loose… we know that somebody’s dog is going to get a hold of a chicken and that’s going to cause a number of problems. I had a little bit of loud support for this motion from a few corners and a lot of quiet opposition as well… I don’t really think it’s something we want to dabble in,” said Thompson.

In 2013, council at the time voted 17-1 against a by-law to allow backyard hens. A report at the time cited concerns over smell, noise and rodent attraction.

Bringing the issue back to council was not something that Councillor Joe Faas said he was in favour of, adding that he believed not much had changed since the idea was voted against seven years ago.

“I feel we’re going back to encountering the same issues that this motion goes through,” Faas said. “I just can’t support the motion.”

However, Councillor Brock McGregor noted that for now it was just intended to be a straight forward motion to get more information and see if the concept would be feasible.

“I definitely heard from some of the same residents that Councillor Authier heard from that have been interested for quite some time in bringing this forward,” he said. “I think we’ve seen that it’s successful in some other communities. Certainly, no doubt in my mind that in such an agriculturally minded community like ours, that we’re able to be successful with this.”

Both Authier and McGregor said the concept would be more relevant now than ever with COVID-19.

“It’s become more relevant right now with restrictions around COVID and people spending more time at home, in their backyards, increasing gardens and moving towards sustainability. I think it’s the right step forward,” said McGregor.

However, half of council ultimately voted in favour of Authier’s motion while half voted against it, therefore the motion failed.