Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay city councillors ruffle feathers over backyard chickens

A plan to have Thunder Bay city administration look into what rules would need to be changed to allow backyard chickens in the city, didn't fly at city council on Monday night.
City councillors in Thunder Bay, Ont., voted against allowing backyard chickens. (CBC)

A plan to have Thunder Bay city administration look into what rules would need to be changed to allow backyard chickens in the city, didn't fly at city council on Monday night.

Coun. Shelby Ch'ng brought forward a resolution to have the city's planning department determine what zoning by-laws and Official Plan amendments would be required to allow the birds in urban areas.

Councillors who sat on the previous term of council were all too familiar with the debate; a similar motion to allow up to six backyard hens was defeated in 2016.

"If you want to believe our food systems are not at risk, denial is a perfectly valid response to an overwhelming situation," said Ch'ng, before the motion was voted on.

"We have become very complacent to our attitudes in food security," she said, noting assistance from the provincial and federal governments, in her opinion, would not come fast enough to stabilize the food supply, if there are shortages.

The 2016 chicken debate was lengthy, with Development Services manager Mark Smith saying the debate four years ago was perhaps the most controversial issue dealt with by the last council.

"I would appreciate being given the opportunity to warn council about the challenges we would face in trying to process an amendment like this at this time."

Smith said public consultation would be difficult to do during the pandemic, and that administration was juggling many other tasks at the current time.

Others on council said they appreciated where Ch'ng was coming from, but could not support the concept of backyard chickens.

"I was certainly a cheerleader back in 2016 for this whole issue," said Coun. Rebecca Johnson. "I felt very strongly about it. I can't say that I'm in the same position at this point and time in 2020." 

She, along with Coun. Brian McKinnon noted that research on backyard chickens has changed, as well as public health perceptions on rats, which could be attracted to urban coops.

The motion itself failed on Monday night, but council could have a different motion on backyard chickens brought before them, if another resolution is tabled.

Neighbour Day, Covid-19 spending

Council agreed to spend $6,000 on the inaugural Neighbour Day event, slated for June 20.

The event would normally encourage community get-togethers, including barbecue events, and neighbourhood gatherings. The current pandemic means the city will encourage virtual gatherings, or neighbours making cards for each other.

Administration felt the event should still go ahead this year, although "it will look different" than what it hopes to achieve next year.

Council will also receive a report from administration on May 25 on what it has saved due to operational changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with where it could also find more spending cuts.

A report released last week said the city is on track to lose $1.1 million per month compared to its budgeted spending.


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.