Tuesday, April 7, 2009

urban chickens outlawed in Waterloo, Ontario

Disappointing news out of Ontario this morning. The city council cast a tie vote (4-4) which means the urban chickens ordinance allowing up to ten hens per household did not pass.

TheRecord.com has the full details of why the council voted the measure down, but the net-net is that the most vocal residents had their fears about smells and noise and rodents win out over the interests of the urban chicken set. The Mayor herself said she was concerned about the rights of "people who don't want to live beside people who have chickens."

What's most interesting about the Waterloo situation to me is that, technically, urban chickens were not outlawed prior to this council action. With no law on the books about chickens, residents of Waterloo weren't breaking any laws if they set up a coop. With the recent push to get them legalized, the council was forced to address the issue, and unfortunately, they chose emotion over logic and placed chickens under a bylaw regulating fowl, pigeons and other like birds currently prohibited.

This presents a bit of conundrum for those of us wanting to raise urban chickens in our backyard: if there's no law on the books explicitly dealing with chickens, do we raise our urban chickens in the grey area of "nothing tells me I can't explicitly do this"? Or, as the folks in Waterloo did, do we try to get our elected representatives to do the sensible thing and explicitly legalize small flocks of hens (no roosters) in our backyards.

If we do the latter, we risk what happened in Waterloo where the council seemed to be doing the correct progressive thing but instead took a surprise backward turn and banned the ability for residents to raise their own food.

What do you think is the better option? Living in limbo or forcing the issue?

EDIT (4/7 @10a): Just learned via the London Free Press article that "Residents who already have backyard coops will be able to continue the practice." This presents an interesting option for others facing a similar Waterloo quandry: build your coop first inside the legal grey area, then press to get the laws on the books and if you're unsuccessful, get grandfathered in.


Lauren Elisabeth said...

I definitely think that in this situation, where there is no law explicitly prohibiting chickens, it is best to not fight it. Get your chickens, keep a low profile, and wait until an issue is brought up. I don't know the situation, maybe there is a reason it was brought before the board (neighborly complaint). My city prohibits chickens, and I am beginning the process to change that, but several influential people have told me to just get chickens, and wait until a problem arises (if it does). I have been wrestling with this decision for awhile, but I am having a hard time "breaking the law".

Anonymous said...

I don't see why a group needs to push for a law accepting chickens, when there was no law banning them in the first place. I understand more if there was a law against it in the first place. If you want to keep chickens I think the first thing you should do is talk to your neighbors and see if there can't be some kind of agreement worked out. It would save a lot of hassle in the long run. Plus it is showing respect for their personal space. I am luky in that one of my neighbors has chickens and the other wants them.

David Blaise Ross said...

I wonder if the number of chickens requested per yard influenced the decision of some to vote against. I can't get 3 hens past the vote in my own house (my wife wants more room first); I can just imagine the look on her face if I suggested 10. I've got five kids addicted to mom's pancakes and I don't think even I, total chicken fan, would want quite that many in my small, urban yard.


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