FOR THE GAZETTE
The battle for backyard chickens appears to be over in Prince Edward County and the news is that laying hens will be allowed to lie.
After months of debate on a winding issue, Council finally agreed to allow an original form of the existing bylaw to stand that would allow people up to six laying hens in backyard coops with no roosters.
Rachel Kuzmich, resident of Black River in Milford, first brought the topic to South Marysburgh councillor, John Hirsch, on Jan. 20 prior to a split vote on backyard hens on Oct. 29.
Kuzmich’s deputation at Tuesday’s regular council meeting provided more detail on the value and necessity of backyard hens to the community.
The allowance of backyard poultry, Rachel summarized, would allow local residents have access to food security. Outlined in the County’s Official and Secondary Plans, she said, is the significance of Prince Edward County’s agricultural and farming community and the ability to produce one’s own food.
In less than two weeks, a petition had been circulating since Oct. 29 and has received more than 500 signature. Of those, over 280 belong to residents of Prince Edward County, many of whom left comments in favour of backyard hens.
“To give a sense of these comments, they are related to concerns associated with food security, environment and many people also brought up that Prince Edward County is a rural community, and chickens are a huge part of our cultural heritage,” Kuzmich explained. “There are diverse people who have signed this. There are a number of farmers in Prince Edward County represented as well as the general public, who feel very passionately about this issue.”
Kuzmich mentioned in the previous meetings’ agenda, there was a survey link available to community members, which received 111 responses.
“Obviously, people have responded and are trying to have their voices heard,” she said. “In reading planning documents, it seems like something that is so obviously enshrined in the values of Prince Edward County. Just looking at the draft official plan, there are a number of sections that touch on urban agriculture initiatives, local healthy food, local food production.”
Kuzmich went on to mention a portion of the 2012 report that touched on the future of rural, and indentified six issues that were known to the County at that time. The report is available on the County’s website under the Planning Department. Of those six issues, she continued, one of them was permitting livestock on residential lots.
“Many municipalities are addressing food security and food awareness by enacting by-laws to allow the raising of livestock,” she said. “That is to say, this is an issue that has been know to the County for a number of years; something that the County has previously looked into on at least one occasion. Subsequent to that, looking at Secondary plans for Picton and Hallowell and Wellington and Rossmore, which were produced after that date, all of these documents specifically note that urban agriculture and the keeping of livestock or poultry in urban or rural residential, or in general, Prince Edward County, has been on the radar for a number of years.”
Kuzmich closed her deputation by reading a quote from the Secondary Plan that states, “These goals and policies are meaningful only if translated into actions that are tangible and can be implemented.”
“I really hope that council will reconsider their positions following the split vote from a couple of weeks ago, and can make a meaningful decision to support backyard hens in Prince Edward County. If I may be so bold, I would love nothing more than to see a chicken coop sitting on Shire Hall land by some of your volunteers in this community,” she expressed.
Kuzmich also mentioned being in conversation with a local Facebook group of “backyard chicken enthusiasts,” who would be interested in working together to facilitate this program and support the future by-law.
In regards to Kuzmich’s educational background in biology, Coun. MacNaughton asked her whether she had any concerns or suggestions about infection control.
“It is something we are so used to hearing all the time now in the context of COVID: wash your hands. It is small, little steps like washing your hands and being aware that you are handling animals that can help in terms of any diseases. I do not think its rocket science to keep chickens. I think people who keep cats and dogs and have children are probably more than qualified to keep a chicken alive to have eggs,” Kuzmich assured. ”I don’t really think a biology perspective is required when we have so many farmers in the community who can definitely play a significant role in educating others and the leader in that regard.”
The MacNaughton-Roberts motion carried.