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Guelph/Eramosa battles with issue of backyard chickens

Some councillors remain unsure rural residential areas are the right place for backyard chickens
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A rooster at Wellington Place.

GUELPH/ERAMOSA ‒ While most councillors feel permitting backyard chickens in agriculturally-zoned areas is a "no-brainer," others remain unsure whether allowing them in rural residential areas is the right choice. 

This follows a new report presented to the committee of the whole Monday afternoon in which staff compared the current regulations surrounding the keeping of chickens in agricultural and rural residential areas in Guelph/Eramosa with other municipalities in Wellington County. 

In Guelph/Eramosa, hens currently fall under the definition of livestock and are only permitted on agriculturally zoned properties two acres or larger.

"If we're gonna do it, let's get it right out of the gate," said Mayor Chris White, during the meeting. "(I want to) make sure we're not running around like chickens with our heads cut off."

But while White felt allowing chickens in agricultural zones was a "no brainer," he was less sure about rural residential zoning, especially in terms of increased bylaw enforcement costs and the potential threat to the poultry industry. 

"Part of the when some people get chickens, it's like when you're young and you get a dog for your kid and your kid takes care of it for three weeks and then it's yours," said White. "Chickens are live animals and need to be maintained and cared for." 

"On the opposite end of the spectrum," Coun. Corey Woods recommended council consider Centre Wellington rules, which subject to MDS requirements, allow backyard chickens as long as they're a minimum of one acre in size and maintain a minimum setback of 18 metres from all property lines.

"I'm not going to point anyone out but I already see (chickens) in Ariss. I know they're not supposed to be there but they're there now and I've seen them in other places as well," said Woods. "I understand some people don't want them running around downtown Rockwood but if it's out in the country, I don't see the issue."

Coun. Bruce Dickieson also suggested downsizing size requirements to an acre was "quite adequate" to house chickens. 

"If you're only going to keep five or six chickens, it doesn't take hundreds of acres to do that," said Dickieson. "My personal opinion is there will be very little uptick on this because the people that want chickens probably have them now." 

If council permits backyard chickens on smaller agricultural lots and in rural residential areas, staff are suggesting a chicken registration system to gain back some of the potential costs associated with any enforcement. 

Staff will return with an information report on the pros and cons of allowing backyard chickens in rural residential and/or smaller agricultural lots' at a future meeting.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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