Opinion

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by Angela Freeman

I am writing to encourage the City of Owen Sound to amend its current By-law 1997-089 in order to permit backyard laying hens within the city limits. As a resident of Owen Sound, I see the addition of chickens as an excellent opportunity for the City to adopt policies and create by-laws that foster sustainable and environmental practices, and support the growth of local food systems. Owen Sound has a strong local food movement and a close link to its rural food sources, yet what is more local than going to your backyard to find fresh organic egg?
Eggs area low-cost excellent source of protein and the flexibility of their use can benefit any household kitchen. Omelets or baked goods anyone? Eggs are also a great way to increase a sense of community between neighbours, as extra eggs can be shared between households.
The benefits of backyard chickens extend beyond eggs as a food source. Chickens make excellent pets, and are enjoyable to watch. People develop friendships with these fine birds. Hens also present opportunity for children to learn about the source of their food directly. Children helping with the simple chores involved with maintaining hens learn how to take care of animals, and also learn responsibility. Chickens can also be part of an ecological-centred yard as chickens eat many vegetative kitchen scraps, eat pests and also produce beneficial and sought-after manure. Thus, when I think of urban hens, I think of fresh eggs, education, food security, garden ecology, and entertainment!
I have seen first-hand in Kitchener and Waterloo how conscientiously raised hens can be kept clean, healthy and safe by keeping the number of hens per household small, by ensuring the hens have enough space, by keeping the hens safely enclosed away from predators, by maintaining clean coops, and by ensuring their food is secured. Noise is often raised as a possible concern, but again in my experience hens are quite quiet, and noise could greatly be reduced by not permitting roosters, which are not required for hens to lay eggs.
If the City of Owen Sound were to change the by-law to incorporate laying hens, the City would be joining a growing movement of small and large communities welcoming these productive birds. I see two possible approaches to changing the by-law. The first would be to amend the by-law to simply remove chickens from Schedule A's list of prohibited animals, and create similar regulations as currently exists for pigeons and rabbits. The second solution would be to create a separate by-law, similar to that of the Town of Meaford, which has dealt with the zoning and licensing separately and has incorporated an educational component that strives to ensure animal welfare and proper care of the hens.
Chickens are easy to manage, relatively low-cost to maintain and provide fresh eggs. I believe it is time to allow these fine-feathered friends into our backyards within the city.

 

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