Pigeons now allowed in urban Hamilton - but no chickens

With little fanfare or debate on Wednesday, fans of keeping pigeons in urban areas got their way.
In a quiet vote on Wednesday, council voted to allow racing pigeons in urban areas of Hamilton. (Jessica Young/CBC)

With little fanfare or debate on Wednesday, fans of keeping pigeons in urban areas got their way.

Last year, local keepers of racing pigeons lobbied council to allow the birds in urban areas of Hamilton. At Wednesday’s council meeting, councillors voted on a new version of the Responsible Animal Ownership bylaw that allows racing pigeons.

“It was quite a lengthy debate” when it came up last year, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2. The lack of debate Wednesday just shows how solid the changes to the bylaw are.

The city’s planning committee nearly passed a motion last year banning new racing pigeon owners from setting up coops in Hamilton. Current pigeon owners would be grandfathered in, but no new pigeon owners could set up coops in the urban areas, nor could they relocate within the city.

Bill Young, director of municipal bylaw enforcement, has been working with members of the Canadian Racing Pigeon Association since last summer. Under the newly revised bylaw, pigeon owners must be members of the Canadian Racing Pigeon Association or the Canadian Pigeon Fanciers’ Association.

The city fielded seven pigeon-related complaints in 2012, and 37 from 2008 to 2013. Hamilton has two associations — the Flamborough Racing Pigeon Club and the Hamilton Central Racing Pigeon Club — and last year, there were 34 registered pigeon owners.

The associations impose strict criteria in terms of cleanliness and maintenance of pigeons, Young said. That’s why membership is required.

“I had the opportunity to visit one of the member’s pigeon coops,” he said. “It was spotless. Fantastic.”

Some on Twitter drew the comparison between urban pigeons and urban chickens. In late 2012, Farr fought for the city to allow backyard chickens. Council voted it down in “a real rollercoaster ride” that is “still divisive and still close,” Farr said.

But Farr doesn’t see them as related, nor does Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8, who’s fielded pigeon complaints.

“This is not food, so there’s a big distinction between the two,” Whitehead said.

Here are some other decisions made at the meeting:

  • Public works manager Gerry Davis will come back to council with a report regarding hours worked by publicly funded garbage collectors. A private memo distributed at city hall this week says that public garbage collectors finish earlier than their private counterparts, but that’s because they complete their work faster.
  • The Cannon bike lanes will go ahead. Councillors approved a plan to install a bi-directional bike lane on the one-way street from Sherman to Hess at a cost of $1.6 million. That cost includes capital and operating costs. This is a three-year pilot project.
  • In addition to six other parks, food trucks are now allowed to sell in Gage Park. That means they’re allowed in Bayfront, Pier 4, Heritage Green, Turner, Sam Lawrence, Confederation and Gage Parks, provided they pay a $50-per-day fee.
  • Council reaffirmed its call on the province to force a moratorium on school closures.
  • The city is moving ahead with a downtown built heritage inventory plan that will see more than 1,000 properties added to a list of heritage buildings of interest.


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