Saint John is the first city in the Maritimes to allow homeowners to keep chickens in their backyards after council voted unanimously Monday night to amend the city's zoning bylaw.

But the conditions of the new urban chicken bylaw are strict.

Chickens will not be permitted in more densely-populated, urban parts of the city unless a homeowner pays $210 for a change-of-use permit and spends the estimated $1,500 cost to build a predator-safe hen compound.

There is a maximum of six hens per homeowner and no roosters can be kept in a backyard coop.

Further, the bylaw states that eggs from the chickens cannot be sold.

Anyone who wants to slaughter or euthanize a chicken has to check first with the Department of Health and dead hens have to be disposed of at a veterinarian's office or at an abattoir.

Clears up legal grey area

The new bylaw brings an end a long-standing dispute between the city and Raymond Breau, who has a chicken coop in his backyard on the city's east side.

Breau has spent the past year-and-a-half trying to convince the city to let him and others keep chickens.

Up until now, keeping chickens technically fell into a legal grey area because Saint John's zoning bylaws were silent on the issue.

Breau says he can live with the conditions laid out in the new bylaw.

Back in the spring of 2011, city bylaw officers told Breau he had to get rid of his chickens but he applied for a one-year approval to keep the birds. But the temporary approval came to an end last summer.

Since then the coop and the birds have been in legal limbo as the city began drafting a backyard chicken bylaw.

Fredericton, Moncton also considering bylaw

Fredericton council is also debating a zoning bylaw that would allow for several changes, including backyard chicken coops.

Fredericton’s proposed zoning change would apply to single, detached houses in certain areas of the city. There could be a maximum of three hens and the eggs or meat could not be sold.

The final vote on the zoning bylaw is expected to be held on June 24.

Moncton could also be adopting a similar law after a pilot project wrapped up a few years ago.

An official with the Greater Moncton Planning Commission said last year the municipal bylaw changes, which would include backyard farms, are expected go to council sometime in 2013.