Urban chickens approved in Norfolk

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Town, hamlet and neighbourhood exemptions were rejected as Norfolk council approved rules and regulations for keeping chickens in urban areas of the county.

“The problem is you start it for one and it becomes a regular issue,” Mayor Kristal Chopp said during a public meeting, held July 9 under the Planning Act.

Charlotteville Coun. Chris Van Paassen agreed.

“When you open the door, you have to let everyone in,” Van Paassen said. “I don’t see how we can do that without having to review the entire situation.”

Chopp and Van Paassen were responding to an exemption request from the Villages of Long Point Bay Residents Association in Port Rowan.

Council also received a 55-signature petition from the Pine Ridge Estate neighbourhood in Port Dover opposing hens in the urban zone.

Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele said the Villages of Long Point subdivision and its unique features make it especially unsuited to backyard chickens. Homes are small and close together while fences are forbidden.


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“There’s greater potential for conflict with the neighbours not having fencing to protect them,” Masschaele said.

“Sometimes you have the bad luck of being stuck beside the bad chicken owner. I hope that is dealt with with strict, rigid bylaw enforcement.”

Norfolk’s journey to urban poultry began nearly three years ago when Simcoe youth Andrew Moore, 15, asked Norfolk County to allow urban households to keep a modest number of hens. This is legal in some communities of Ontario and Moore says it has not been terribly disruptive.

Norfolk took a year to study small flocks in the county’s hamlet areas. The county concluded that backyard poultry – in modest numbers — is a low-risk proposition. Last Tuesday’s approval under the Planning Act is the culmination of that process, although there were objections along the way.

Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus made some predictions. He said negligent owners will create odour, fly and rodent issues for their neighbours.

“I’ve had first-hand experience,” Columbus said. “I’ve lived with chickens for 20 years. You can bet the manure is going to end up in the urban garbage pickup. There must be good reason why – 100 years ago – chickens were banned from urban areas.”

Keeping chickens in town also has its defenders.

Rick Dawdry of Vittoria said the keeping of chickens, rabbits, pigeons and the like teaches young people responsibility as well as empathy for animals.

Dawdry noted that the Norfolk County Fair has encouraged this activity for decades with its own dedicated barn for exhibiting rabbits, poultry and other fowl.


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“There will not be a large influx of chickens,” Dawdry said. “I’ve seen this before. There will be a few people here and there. There will not be a run on people keeping chickens.”

The new rules allow for a modest number of hens per property – four – while enforcing a prohibition on roosters because of noise issues.

Because chickens are livestock and were previously limited to rural areas, the new policy required a zoning amendment. Changes were also required to Norfolk’s animal control bylaw.

Highlights of the new rules include:

  • The four hens per property must be at least four months of age when introduced to the urban zone.
  • Feed must be kept in secure containers to deter rodents.
  • No in-town slaughtering.
  • No curb-side sale of eggs, manure or other products.
  • Manure must be disposed of in a responsible fashion, preferably in partnership with a landowner in the agricultural zone.
  • Coops are allowed to a maximum of 10 square metres with a maximum height of three metres. Coops must observe a minimum rear- and sideyard setback of three metres.
  • In-town hen keepers much register their poultry with the Ontario Chicken Marketing Board.
  • Coops are to be enclosed on all six sides. Preferably, they are anchored in the ground to deter predators.
  • Owners of backyard hens must reside on the property where they are kept. Tenants must obtain written permission from their landlord before keeping poultry on site.

Voting in favour of urban poultry were Chopp, Van Paassen, Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts, Simcoe Coun. Ryan Taylor, Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin and Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman.

Opposed were Columbus, Masschaele, and Langton Coun. Roger Geysens.

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