The idea ruffled feathers and, in the end, chickens will not be permitted in the city of Moose Jaw – at least, not right now.
Council has denied a request for a pilot project that would have allowed a select few residents to keep chickens in their backyards for a year, to see how it impacts the community. But a number of councillors cited concerns from other residents who didn’t want chickens as neighbours.
A report to city council earlier this summer from bylaw enforcement officer Ted Swenson outlined some of the concerns that city administration had with allowing chickens inside the city, including federal and provincial government regulations that need to be enforced; work that would likely fall onto the city’s desk; concerns around avian flu; biohazard regulations; the lack of a support system; and concerns with enforcing proper coop construction due to the fact there are currently only two bylaw officers.
Jordan Leduc is a member of the South Central Food Network and understands the city’s concerns around noise and waste produced. He also supported all of the other concerns that were raised in the report, saying if a pilot program was ever launched in the city, he would want it to be legitimate and tightly controlled.
“A lot of the concerns about waste and about noise are based out of a sense of fear and not understanding those issues and of course that develops that resistance,” said Leduc. “Our conversation is about 60 decibels and a hen produces noise around 50 decibels, regarding waste, the average chicken, even in the large breeds produces less than a tablespoon a day.”
With the amount of work it would take to set up a legal, safe and comfortable coop for chickens, Leduc doesn’t think a person would just decide one day to take up raising chickens, only to neglect them or walk away. Some councillors were concerned that bad incidents could lead to neighbourhood disputes.
“The welfare of the animal is of paramount importance,” responded Leduc. “We wouldn’t want the pilot project to go forward without strict controls on who can have the animals and to maintain that they’re healthy.”
“The risks of abuse are absolutely there but we want a strict and controlled pilot project to mitigate that.”
In fact, the group pushing for the project even had the support of a local veterinarian who was willing to help draft an educational program for prospective participants.
With the project rejected, Leduc says they’ll let things settle down in the community before trying to revisit the idea in the future, hoping to gain some more support and understanding.