The roost is up – Plympton-Wyoming council has asked staff to get cracking on a bylaw which would allow backyard chickens in urban areas.
The town’s bylaws don’t permit farm animals within residential areas. In 2020, a complaint about a backyard coop brought the Needham family to council hoping to change the bylaw. Jon Needham said during the pandemic the birds had become good therapy for his son, Noah, who is autistic. A local feed dealer estimated there could be upwards of 500 backyard chickens in the town.
But changes to the bylaws would have meant a public meeting at the time, something council didn’t want to do during the pandemic. The Needhams’ chickens were given a reprieve.
Over the last month, Planner Sarah Baldwin has hosted two public meetings and compiled an online survey to gauge support for backyard birds. And she says most people are okay with the concept – with a few limitations.
Between the open houses, the survey and letters and emails, Baldwin says about 83 per cent of the people who responded liked the idea.
“Fifty of the 55 (people who responded) want fresh eggs; 39 (would have chickens) for educational purpose; 30 for compost (manure); 26 due to an interest in owning chickens and nine for selling of surplus eggs,” Baldwin wrote.
People responding to the survey had some ideas of their own. “Possible food shortage coming. The people have the right to self preservation. Plus the increase cost of food,” wrote one.
“We are a rural agricultural area. We should be allowed to have chickens. We need to continue with the heritage of farming and education within our community,” said another.
“They’re amazing family pets but also lay eggs to help feed families,” added another.
Seth, Anna, Sophia and Caleb Doktor – who live in Wyoming and raise chickens in the backyard feeding them table scraps and collecting their eggs – sent hand printed letters of support to council.
“I like chickens because they give lots of fresh eggs, they keep my little brothers happy, and they love food scraps so they reduce garbage,” said Anna, a Grade 4 student. “You could make a law to only allow 20 or less chickens and they have to keep the coop clean and not stinky.”
Doktor’s suggestion to limit the number of birds was echoed by others.“Forty-nine of the 55 stated that roosters should be restricted,” Baldwin said in her report.
Those who didn’t like the idea are concerned about noise, manure, they might carry disease and could attract other wildlife who are predators.
One writer, who had first hand experience living next to backyard chickens, said “the chickens were not soothing and quiet, they fought with one another; they made noise continuously during daylight hours; they smelled.”
Others offered compromises.
“For the sake of neighbours who don’t love chickens, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of chickens someone can own based on property size. This would lower the potential noise level and the amount of waste,” wrote one resident.
Council asked staff to draw up a bylaw to be considered in a month. It will also be the subject of a public meeting.