Backyard Chickens

This week Springwater Council is following up on the consideration of changing the by-law presently prohibiting backyard chickens on non-farm lots (up to 86.5 acres). Public consultation occurred regarding this by a public meeting held at the TownshipAdministration Centre on November 7, 2019, with 35 attending, plus a survey available in print and online. There were 378 survey responses, with 294 (78%) being from Springwater residents.

163 of the 294 (55%) were interested in keeping backyard chickens on their residential property. Some of the results include:

73% of respondents supported the keeping of backyard chickens on non-agricultural (residential) properties;
“Wanting fresh eggs” and “Educational Purposes” were the most common responses among those who supported backyard chickens;
“Noise”, “Odour”, “Appearance/Property Values”, “Illness/disease” and “Safety/Predators” were the most common responses among those who objected to backyard chickens;
Approximately 45% of residents responded that rural and urban (e.g. Midhurst, Elmvale, Hillsdale) properties should be treated differently with respect to the keeping of backyard chickens while 55% believed they should not;
If backyard chickens were to be permitted, approximately 35% of respondents believed they should be licensed, similar to dog tags, while 55% believed they should not;
Residents responses included “a limit on the number of chickens”, “no roosters”, and “cleanliness provisions” as the most important regulations to apply to backyard chickens. A maximum of 4 backyard chickens was the most popular individual response however, responses to “other” category ranged from 0 chickens to 20+ chickens per property;
The majority of responses indicated that “1-2 acres” or “2+ acres” were the most appropriate property sizes to support backyard chickens. Responses varied with substantial support as well in the 0.5 acre range.

The Simcoe Federation of Agriculture and the Springwater Agricultural Advisory Committee passed motions forwarded to the Township expressing opposition to backyard chickens due to potential disease affecting commercial operations, potential wildlife problems, enforcement, administration cost and animal welfare issues.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit commented that public health concerns resulting from urban chickens are similar to those hazards that are associated with having domestic animals. They state that according to research, the risk of pathogen transmission from backyard chickens appears to be low and does not present a threat to the public’s health. It is comparable to keeping other animals allowed by similar bylaws such as dogs and cats. Adherence to proper hygiene (e.g. hand washing, maintaining and regularly cleaning chicken coops) will significantly mitigate the risk of disease acquisition which are commonly found in chickens, including Salmonella. Regular maintenance will also assist with some of the nuisance-related issues that are associated with backyard chickens, including attraction of pests (rodents, raccoons, flies to animal feces or animal feed products) and odours (associated with animal waste). Strict cleanliness and maintenance standards should be observed if Council wishes to implement a ‘Backyard Chicken’ program.

Council will be considering whether to maintain the current prohibition or to undertake a pilot project with specific parameters or to establish a permanent Township-wide backyard chicken program at this time regardless of size of property.  

Guiding provisions which I feel are a pre-condition to consider if either of the second or third options are advanced include:

Program duration before review (up to 3-year pilot);
Rural versus urban lots – include in settlement areas or not;
Minimum lot requirement – 0.40 hectare (1 acre) or larger;
Maximum number maximum 4 chickens at least 16 weeks old at time of purchase;
Chicken licensing, inspection and approval program with an annual fee per property to cover costs;
Proof vaccination by an authorized veterinarian as part of the annual licensing;
Prohibition against keeping roosters and any form of slaughter or product sale;
Minimum coop/enclosure dimension requirements, setback and location on the property and keep all hens in an enclosed area in locked coops at all times from sunset to sunrise;
Yard cleanliness and health and safety provisions.

I am in favour of trying a test period of allowing backyard chickens to promote and support local food production and the experience this brings to families. As well, we need to address the concerns of the farmers and others with whom we live to make this work. To maintain safety and concern for all involved and address the issues which have been raised, I believe there needs to be regulations included in the by-law which would be required detailing what will be allowed. Depending on the outcome, further program development and bylaw changes would be brought back to Council by Staff and public education would need to be undertaken.

Elmvale and District Food Bank Contract Award

In February 2019 Council approved the construction of a new Elmvale and District Food Bank (EDFB) at 62 Yonge Street North, Elmvale. Studies and design drawings were completed and a request for proposal was issued. No bids were submitted in response to the RFP so the EDFB committee and Township Staff worked to acquire bids from local contractors using local sub-contractors. Bids were received from this process and the recommendation being reviewed by Council this week is to award the contract to Murcott Design Build for $460,000 excluding HST. Should this proceed, the floor plan will be finalized, detailed drawings for a building permit completed, site preparation will begin in the spring, construction in the summer with targeted occupancy this fall. The Township and the EDFB are each contributing $100,000. The $268,096 remaining will be funded by a $200,000 advance from the Elmvale Hydro Reserve Fund, repayable over up to 10 years and the rest from fundraising. This is great progress that will make a huge difference.

2019 Curbside Battery Collection

Well done Simcoe County residents! The County’s sixth annual single-use battery collection last November resulted in 28.3 tonnes of batteries collected, an increase of 9.8% over the previous year and 58% over the year one collection in 2014. The net budget impact was $38,197.

Elmvale Eye Care

Welcome to Dr. List, Dr. Vandendool and Dr. Spiegl who have recently opened their Elmvale branch on 14 Queen Street West, Elmvale. They currently have Anne Street Optometry in north Barrie and wanted to open in Elmvale to see patients in that area and offer full optometric practice with a full dispensary. Each of the doctors will spend an individual day a week initially in addition to their current practice. Two of the doctors live in Springwater.  Please call 705-515-3937 for more information.

The comments above are my thoughts. Check out my recent radio interview reviewing current Springwater news items with Rock95 and 107.5 KOOL FM news director Dan Blakeley. See https://barrie360.com/springwater-update/

Contact me at don.allen@springwater.ca or 705-728-4784 Ext. 2013 to set a time to meet or reach me directly at 705-302-4253. We can also stay connected on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MayorDonAllen and review updates on www.donallen.ca