Friday, November 12, 2010

Woman thinks chicken idea won't ruffle feathers (as published in the Daily Gleaner, November 11/10)

The feathers could fly if a Fredericton woman pursues her dream of raising eggs in her own city backyard.

Hazel Richardson still has some homework to do, but she hopes to end up putting the case before city council to allow city dwellers to keep chickens in their backyards. The Fredericton resident said after she decided that she'd like to keep a few hens for fresh eggs, she checked out the city's bylaws, but found they were verboten.

"There's a lot of talk about Fredericton being a sustainable city. It's wonderful in so many ways, but I looked into it and I found that you weren't allowed to keep chickens within city limits," Richardson said.

About 100 cities across North America, from big cities such as Vancouver to smaller centres, have amended their bylaws to permit limited hen pens within city boundaries. Richardson said Moncton has allowed a pilot project to test out the idea and that went well.

Richardson said she wanted to see if other city residents shared her desire, so she placed an advertisement on Kijiji Fredericton's online classifieds site and got about 50 responses. "I thought if it was just me, why would I inflict the idea on other people?" she said.

But the responses she received, ranging from supportive to curious, to others who don't want to keep chickens, but liked the idea of building connections to a local food supply, encouraged her to press on.

New Brunswick's Conservation Council recently showed a film about keeping chickens in urban settings and Richardson invited people to attend the showing. The conservation council is also interested in the idea because of its initiative to encourage people to purchase food locally.

Deputy mayor Dan Keenan said he can't recall anyone raising such an agricultural issue with the city for awhile. "We'd have to do some research to see what the ramifications are," Keenan said. "Clearly, there are also some potential health issues that we would have to ensure that we looked at before we would consider anything like that." Keenan said he'll wait until the issue darkens city hall's door before tackling the potentially plucky problem.

Richardson said there could be public and political hesitation about the concept. "I think it would have to be done very carefully," she said. Roosters aren't part of her plan. The noisy crowers aren't needed for egg production and laying hens aren't noisy.

"The way the Moncton group approached it is they put a report together to address all the concerns that people have," she said. The concerns range from what happens to chicken waste, smell, noise and keeping vermin away, she said.

"Obviously, we're talking maybe two or three chickens. Personally, chicken manure I would use in the garden or compost and they generate less waste than a dog ... It's all about people taking care of the chickens properly," she said. "If food is stored properly, then (attracting vermin) doesn't become an issue," she said. Five chickens generate less manure than one medium-sized dog, she said.

Richardson hopes to pull a report together over the next month and said she would ask city council to consider a limited pilot project as was done in Moncton. Richardson said if anyone is interested in her concept, they can visit Fredericton City Chickens on Facebook to post a comment.

"I'm happy to hear comments on both sides," she said. She's also planning on launching a website, www.frederictoncitychickens.com.

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