(© Can Stock Photo / alkerk)(© Can Stock Photo / alkerk)

UPDATE: CK Council approves criteria for backyard chicken pilot project

Criteria for a pilot project to raise chickens in parts of Chatham-Kent has been approved by Council.

Councillors approved the backyard chicken pilot program criteria for rural and village properties only, not urban centres like Chatham, Wallaceburg, or Blenheim.

Excluding urban centres will cut enforcement and coop inspection costs from $486,00 for all 31,659 residential properties down to $56,000 for the 3,411 rural and village properties in places like Shrewsbury, Bothwell, Erieau, Dealtown, Dover Centre, Grande Pointe, and Coatsworth.

The vote was 11-6 with Mayor Canniff and councillors Wright, Storey, C. McGregor, Allin, and Finn all voting against the pilot. Councillor McGrail declared a conflict of interest.

Councillor John Wright has heard concerns from farmers about health, public safety, and compliance, citing chickens can be dangerous and spread disease.

"All the farmers, they have to have inspections on the barns done by a third party through the egg board and the broiler board and that person is not allowed to go from farm to farm without showering and changing his coveralls," said Wright. "There's quite a risk with the bird flu if it does get into a flock, even a private flock. The disposal of the birds has to be done by permits and special people picking them up on a farm and his concern was that they wouldn't be disposed of properly on the rural areas."

Mayor Darrin Canniff also has concerns about the program's high cost not being recovered by fees alone, the program ending abruptly if the pilot doesn't work, and liability if there's an outbreak.

"It won't come close to covering these costs. So, we're going to ask the tax base of Chatham-Kent to pick up the difference in inspectors and everything else for these chickens. By default that's the only other place that's going to come from. And then if there's a significant disease outbreak, who pays for it?" said the mayor.

Several councillors acknowledged that several households are already illegally raising chickens and urged Council to be proactive.

Councillor Ryan Doyle said the pilot project must be done properly to correctly gauge if a permanent program would be successful.

"Let's make this so we can monitor it and open it up to more people who want to have chickens but haven't because they're not allowed yet. We've had overwhelming support in the surveys from constituents, This is something that they want. So, if this is something that they want then why don't we give it to them as a pilot project. Maybe start it off small and if it goes well maybe we could expand from there," said Doyle.

The draft bylaw may include, but is not limited to, chickens staying on their owners property and being cooped if there's no fence, no roosters, minimum set back distances from neighbours, feed stored in rodent-proof containers, passing inspection before owning backyard chickens, limit on the number of chickens on each property, and demerit points for non-compliance.

Public consultation with deputations will still be needed before the bylaw and the pilot are given final approval by Council.

The length of the pilot project will also be discussed at a later date when the bylaw returns to Council for approval.

Original article was published on May 24, 2024


The issue of urban backyard chickens is once again on the table at Chatham-Kent Council.

Administration will present three options to Council on Monday night, including option #1, which is maintaining the status quo of banning chickens in urban area backyards, option #2 of running a pilot project, or option #3 of establishing a permanent program.

Monday night's Council meeting will be held at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham due to a larger than expected public turnout. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. and will take place in the grand ballroom.

Chatham-Kent Manager of Licensing Services Nancy Havens said in her report that if either options #2 or #3 are approved, councillors would have to consider the extra cost to enforce the rules and inspect the chicken coops. Pet and Wildlife Rescue, the municipality's animal control contractor, estimates it'll cost $398,250 to inspect the chicken coops at all 31,659 residential areas and $87,650 to enforce the options.

Havens is also warning about significant administrative costs to support a backyard chicken program if all urban households could apply to have chickens.

Currently, backyard chickens are not allowed on any property that is not zoned agricultural and Havens said administration believes it should stay that way.

Havens noted a pilot project should only be considered if Council’s goal is to eventually move to a permanent backyard chicken program.

She added that the pilot program would be used to improve the program and/or bylaw.

"It is very difficult to step back a program such as this once citizens have already purchased chickens and invested in equipment and construction for same," said Havens.

Options 2 and 3 would require amendments to the municipality’s zoning bylaw and the Responsible Animal Ownership bylaw.

No deputations from the public will be heard on the issue Monday evening as a public meeting was already held in 2023 after the item was previously debated a couple of times, but Havens recommends public consultation at some point if options 2 or 3 are chosen.

Council will also hear about lingering concerns that a backyard chicken program could attract pests such as mice, rats, and cats, along with an increase in wildlife like skunks, raccoons, and predatory wildlife, including foxes and coyotes, and concerns about household pets like dogs killing or injuring the chickens.

Administration also acknowledges Chatham-Kent Public Health’s concerns about significant risks of diseases that backyard chickens pose such as the Avian Flu.

Segments of the public have long expressed an interest in raising chickens in their backyards for the fresh eggs, to eat, and believe chickens are a fun, educational opportunity.

The top concerns raised in a 2023 survey were smell, sanitary/health, attracting predatory wildlife and/or rodents, noise, and roaming chickens.

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