Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Backyard hens may soon be something to cluck about in Smiths Falls; council agrees to move forward with public input

The Town of Smiths Falls wants to hear from residents regarding a new policy to allow backyard hens. – Photo via Pexels

Before the Town of Smiths Falls moves forward with a plan for backyard hens, they are seeking public input.

During a regular meeting of council on Monday, May 27, chief administrative officer Malcolm Morris brought forward a report written by Fire Chief Rick Chesebrough regarding whether to entertain the idea.

It was in April that a local resident expressed his desire to allow backyard hens during a committee meeting. Danny Radford, a Newfoundland native who has lived in Smiths Falls for the past four years, presented his idea to council. He’s an avid gardener, growing over 600 pounds of produce annually. In Newfoundland, he also raised chickens as a teenager, he said.

Radford spoke of the benefits of having a garden in this time of food insecurity, and having chickens would elevate food sources. Not only would allowing chickens help build community, but it would also give the chickens a better quality of life and a sense of accomplishment for the owners.

Following Radford’s presentation, members of council directed staff to review other municipal programs and make recommendations on a potential process if council approved the backyard hen program.

However, during the review and internal consultation, staff identified several items that must be considered prior to approving this program.

Backyard hens may soon be something to cluck about

“Hear what the public has to say … that’s a great suggestion, but to raise some chickens in your backyards for eggs, I lived on a farm where we had meat birds and we had hens … and I know how much work it took. It’s not inexpensive.”

Quinn said there are needs for winter exposure, and safety – “and that all comes at a cost.”

Although, she said, it doesn’t compare, but the town spent $14,000 last year on feral cats’ transportation to the Lanark Animal Welfare Society, “and we have not cleaned up the cats. Who created that problem? Humans have. Humans are the ones that have to fix the problem.”

Quinn added that if people are looking to produce food, they should be planting more gardens.

Council agreed to direct staff to prepare a zoning bylaw amendment and conduct public consultation (including an in-person meeting and an online survey) to determine the level of interest and acceptance of the proposed program before council makes any final decisions.
Further, staff would provide a financial estimate to administer the program and the associated costs for staffing and the inspection and maintenance of the program.

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