Plympton-Wyoming chickens get pandemic reprieve

Noah Needham checks on the eggs in his family’s chicken coop in early December 2021.

Heather Wright/The Independent

The Needhams won’t have to get rid of their chicken coop – at least not yet.

In December, the Plympton-Wyoming family has asked council to allow them to continue keeping the hens in their backyard at their home.

Jon Needham says the chickens became a family project during the spring, when they were told to stay home during the pandemic. They raised the hens from chicks in their house and then built a coop, complete with lights, in their backyard which abuts a field and a wooded area.

But one of the neighbours complained and in October a bylaw enforcement officer from Lambton County came to the house saying the chickens would have to go.

In Plympton-Wyoming, a bylaw prohibits livestock including chickens in residential areas, but it’s not unusual to find a backyard coop in the Needham’s neighbourhood.

The local feed dealer has told the Needhams she thinks there could be upwards of 2,200 chickens in backyards across Plympton-Wyoming based on the amount of feed she sells.
The residents are largely left alone unless a neighbour complains. Which is exactly what happened to the Needhams.

Needham appealed to council to allow the practice to continue and to amend the town’s bylaw allowing other closet chicken families to raise their hens in peace.

And he told council the birds had become good therapy for his son, Noah, who is autistic.
Council heard the Needham’s concerns in December and Monday, Planner Sarah Baldwin prepared a report which suggested backyard chickens could be allowed with some conditions if council approved.

But before the report could be read, Councillor Netty McEwen suggested changing the bylaw would require a public meeting which wasn’t practical during the pandemic. She suggested, and council agreed, to put off the issue until “after the pandemic is over.” It’s not clear when that might be. The Needhams can keep their chickens until the matter returns to council.

Needham is concerned council won’t agree to include chickens as backyard animals in their bylaws in the future.

If that happens, he’ll ask for a special exemption for Noah to keep the coop under the Ontarians with Disability Act.