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Cambridge council cries fowl on illegal chicken coops

In a 6-2 vote, Cambridge city council voted to force any illegal chicken coops to be eliminated
Stock photo.

It's a move that will ruffle the feathers of some Cambridge residents.

Cambridge city council voted Tuesday night to force residents operating an illegal chicken coop to cease operations and find a new home for them outside city limits.

"Chickens shouldn't be within the city limits," Councillor Frank Monteiro told council bluntly, "If you want chickens, move out to the country."

He equated the problem to buying his daughter a rabbit when she wanted one.

"Guess who ended up looking after the rabbit after a while?" Monteiro said, "She didn't look after it.  That's the same thing with chickens.  Initially, everybody wants it and looks after it, and then (the system) falls apart (over time)."

Councillor Mike Devine says it's an emotional decision, but also a logical one.

"I don't think we'll be able to police Option 2," he said about an alternative that would have allowed residents with already established coops on residential property to continue for the lifespan of the hens.

Mayor Kathryn McGarry says with the alternate, she's worried it would take up to 10 years before existing coops are out of the city.

She says the decision made allows for a "reasonable timeline" for current hen owners.

The city says in a report "violations would be identified to by-law enforcement on a complaint basis."

"If a complaint is received, by-law staff could give a reasonable timeline up to one year for owners to find appropriate relocation of their hens," the report states, adding the cost to do so would come out of the owner's pocket.

"There are a number of farms on rural edges of our city, who actually do have hens and manage them quite well and sell eggs out of their property," McGarry says.

Councillor Shannon Adshade says allowing the coops to exist would be rewarding those who broke the bylaw beforehand.

"I don't think that's fair, or right," he said, "There's a lot of people that wanted to get this passed legitimately.  It didn't go through, but they were following the law.  So, if we follow Option 2, we're rewarding people that were actually breaking the bylaw."

But with all that, Councillor Pam Wolf, a staunch supporter of the coops, says it's not really an issue at all.

"I just think that for those that are operating quietly in the city, I would hate for them to lose their coop just because someone now knows that it's illegal to have a coop, so then they can complain," she said.

Wolf also noted there wouldn't be a need for the financial implications in Option 2, adding the Chamber of Commerce's visitor centre would be okay to register coops for the city.

The final vote was 6-2 in favour of the first option.

Wolf voted against it, and so did Monteiro.  The reason for Monteiro's vote?

"I'm against both," he said.

By comparison, the City of Kitchener allows residents to keep up to four chickens in backyard coups, but are required to pay a one-time $50 registration fee, and need an inspection of their property so it complies with all setback and coop requirements.


Mark Pare

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