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Out of cluck: Hens won’t find home in Hamilton backyards anytime soon

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Out of cluck: Hens won’t find home in Hamilton backyards anytime soon

The City of Hamilton’s Planning Committee has opted to not revive the issue of allowing backyard hens in the city at Tuesday’s (July 7) meeting.

Several Hamilton residents resurrected the issue when they sent letters calling for the city to allow for urban coops for hens, not roosters.

The letters call on City councillors to amend a current bylaw that prohibits backyard coops and the keeping of chickens within urban boundaries.

While some councillors on the Planning Committee were willing to look into the issue, several others were reluctant to go down that road — again.

Councillors Judi Partridge, Maria Pearson and Branda Johnson were among those opposed to looking into the issue again.

Committee chair, councillor Jason Farr, said he supports the cause but he too was “twice bitten, three times shy,” on the issue.

“This issue will never die,” he said, adding that he’ll always support it and hopes that eventually, council will get serious about the issue.

Back in 2018, City Council voted down a motion that would’ve allowed for residents to keep urban hens in their backyard.

At the time, Mount Hope resident Christina Sousa appeared in front of councillors to champion the cause and made some compelling arguments for allowing backyard hens.

Foremost among the benefits is the fact that hens are known to consume pests, particularly ticks, which has been an increasing problem in Hamilton.

Seeing as how chickens are largely fed kitchen scraps, they’re also handy in keeping food waste out of landfills.

Sousa highlighted several other reasons why urban chickens would benefit the city and its residents, but ultimately, council couldn’t be brought around to the idea.

Sousa is among the four citizens who have brought the issue to councillors again.

In her letter to the committee this week, she reiterates her points from her 2018 presentation and she cites the pandemic as the reason why this issue should be debated again.

“On average, one hen lays one egg per day,” she wrote. “Through the Covid-19 crisis, many stores were sold out of eggs.”

In one of the other letters from Hamilton resident and urban hen supporter, Lisa Chamberlain, she says COVID-19 has made a lot of people rethink how they feed themselves.

“I feel since then COVID-19 has greatly impacted our society and its citizens feel they want to be more self-sufficient with all the panic shopping that has occurred, and the many risks of no supply of essential needs in our stores,” she wrote.

Many of the concerns around urban coops are related to noise and the fear that they could potentially attract rodents.

Sousa points out that those concerns are no different than those posed by domesticated pets which are allowed in the city.

While there are many benefits to having backyard hens, it wasn’t enough to gain support from the Planning Committee members who ultimately baulked at reopening the debate.

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