The face of chicken ownership in urban areas of Norfolk County is coming into focus.
As a follow-up to a decision taken in December, Norfolk council agreed on April 2 to rules for bringing chickens to backyards in Simcoe, Delhi, Port Dover, Waterford and Port Rowan.
If approved as a zoning amendment, Norfolk residents who want to keep chickens in town will have to respect the following guidelines:
- A maximum of four hens. Hens must be at least four months old at time of adoption. Roosters will not be allowed because of noise issues.
- Hens must be registered as a small flock with the Ontario Chicken Marketing Board in case there is an outbreak of disease.
- Poultry food must be kept in a rodent-proof location.
- No on-site slaughtering.
- No on-site sales of egg, meat or manure.
- Manure must be disposed of in the countryside. No on-site composting allowed. Manure will not be collected curbside as part of the regular waste stream.
- Three-metre lot line setbacks must be observed.
- Coops must be no larger than 10 square metres (108 square feet) and no taller than three metres.
Last Tuesday’s meeting was a moment of triumph for Andrew Moore, 15, of Poplar Street in Simcoe.
Moore got the poultry discussion rolling more than two years ago. During a presentation, he asked Norfolk council to allow a limited number of hens per household within urban boundaries.
“It’s kind of crazy how long it’s taken just for a few hens on our own property,” Moore said after the April 2 vote. “It’s not like we’re asking for money. It’s taken longer than I thought but I’m glad we’re dealing with a council that is open to the idea.”
The next step is a public meeting under the Planning Act. The necessary zoning changes will be up for discussion and people for or against will have an opportunity to provide input.
Principal planner Mat Vaughan spoke of the changes required. These include distinguishing chickens from other livestock to allow them within the urban zone. Changes will also be needed to Norfolk’s animal control bylaw.
A Simcoe resident didn’t wait for the public meeting process to register her opposition to council’s plan.
Tamra Smith of Norfolk Street South began her presentation with a recording of chickens squawking loudly. She said that’s the sound chickens make in the middle of the night when attacked by a predator.
Smith added that filth and odour are likely to prompt complaints.
“People don’t clean up after their dogs,” Smith said. “So we’re going to trust these people to clean up after their chickens? Livestock belongs on a farm, which is five minutes from the downtown. We don’t need livestock in our backyards.”
Mayor Kristal Chopp pointed out that squawking chickens register at about 67 decibels while barking dogs can be as loud as 100 decibels. She added that dogs will defecate on the sidewalk while the chickens at issue will, for the most part, be confined to backyards.
“Maybe it would be better if people got a chicken instead of a dog,” the mayor said. “It might be less intrusive.”
In his report to council, Vaughan said the earliest available date for a public meeting on the issue is May 14.