Backyard hens still illegal in Greater Sudbury, vote deferred in favour of consultation
Bylaw banning chickens on residential properties still in place until Dec. 11 meeting
Raising hens at home may be allowed in the near future, but owning backyard chickens on residential properties in Greater Sudbury remains illegal while city staff has been ordered to dig deeper into the subject.
City council voted nearly unanimously to send a report back to staff, asking that more consultation be done with local residents, as well as with other communities that have tried making similar changes to allow chickens in residential areas.
Council had originally asked the city's department of bylaw services to create a report detailing what steps the city would have to take to legalize backyard chickens for all property owners.
Currently, chickens — and all other animals listed as "livestock" by the city — can only be raised on properties zoned agricultural or rural. Coops must conform to municipal building rules.
Brendan Adair, the city's manager of bylaw services, said he doesn't know the exact number, but that "anecdotally," there are likely between 200 and 250 people raising chickens in contravention to city rules.
He added most of them appear to be limiting impacts on neighbours, due to the lack of complaints his department generally receives.
Adair noted bylaws are only enforced if a complaint is noted.
A petition with 500 signatures made its way to city staff earlier this year, pushing for backyard chickens be allowed. City councillors backed up that direction.
But in its report tabled on Tuesday, the bylaw department was clear in its recommendation that council leave the the city's livestock bylaw unchanged.
The report stated the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as Public Health Sudbury and Districts, have each noted health and environmental risks associated with backyard chickens.
However, Coun. Deb McIntosh pointed out that council had already made its wishes clear to city staff..
"I'd really like to know from the other municipalities that allow backyard chickens what they are doing to make it work," said McIntosh. "We've got a report telling us what all the risks are, but not how we can make it work."
Coun. Mike Jakubo agreed, but said more public input is needed.
"We're looking to try to help people who are trying to provide their own food on their own property, no matter where they live. That's a totally valid want," said Jakubo. "But we also have to consider all the other people in our city.
"I would be in favour of kicking the ball further down the road, getting more information, more consultation, and getting it right from the get-go."
Council voted nearly unanimously to defer a decision in favour of more public consultation until a meeting scheduled for Dec. 11.
Worried pets may be taken away
Coun. Robert Kirwan was the only one not to vote in favour of the deferral. He was trying to push through an amendment to the current bylaw that would make backyard hens legal
Though he was unsuccessful, he said he hopes bylaw officers will use discretion when responding to complaints about pet chickens until the next meeting, where he expects owning backyard hens will be made legal.
"If only five complaints are coming in a year, and you have a couple hundred [chicken coops] out there, then it means people must be pretty responsible with their chicken coops," said Kirwan.
"So let's get something in writing that allows it to be legal, and let's let these people raise their chickens either for eggs, or for pets, because I know a lot of young kids treat them as pets."
Adair explained he'll now work with the city's communications staff to get the public's pulse on the subject, likely through its online platform, www.overtoyou.greatersudbury.ca.
He added his will also follow up with other communities that have allowed backyard chickens. He said that should be enough time to prepare a new report for the Dec. 11 council meeting.