4/20/12

Council Chickens Out

In Mississippi Mills, it is easier to build a subdivision on prime agricultural land than to erect a chicken coop in an urban backyard.

In 2006, Mississippi Mills extended the urban boundary onto top quality farmland to allow a subdivision (Riverside Estates). In April 2012, Mississippi Mills Council turned down a proposal to allow people in urban areas to keep up to six hens for home-grown eggs.

Municipalities have been building subdivisions for decades. Despite their warts, they are a known entity.

Urban chickens is a new idea, something out of the ordinary and therefore to be viewed as threatening or dangerous.

I have observed that many people or groups, who oppose a project or policy change, tend to present a list of speculative horrors as facts. (The input into the Enerdu project is an exception—opponents have done their homework.)

The list of chicken horrors presented at Council or to me in private discussions include: hordes of rats attracted to the chicken feed; a legion of predatory mammals roaming through town attracted to the hens; a myriad of health issues; problems with disposal of dead chickens; overloading the planning department with yet another by-law; and, an angry backlash from urban residents.

Only one councillor presented any evidence—the rest speculated. Garry Dalgity provided a study from the Center for Disease Control on the health risks of chickens; however, a thorough read of the paper made it clear the CDC was talking about chickens as pets in homes.

I presented a copy of a Kingston by-law that regulates urban chickens, to lessen the load on our Town staff. I presented a university investigation (thanks for that Bev) of 23 cities in the US that allowed hens. City staff interviewed for the study reported few problems and none of the speculative horrors postulated by my Council colleagues.

I backed the chicken motion because many people asked me to. I also wanted to return a privilege to Ramsay hamlet dwellers denied them since amalgamation.

In the end, my chicken motion had support from three urban-dwelling councillors: Bernard Cameron, Alex Gillis and Duncan Abbott. All the rural-dwelling members voted it down. (Councillor Minnelli was absent.)


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