On Monday night, council deferred a vote on a pilot project that would allow Toronto residents in some neighborhoods to keep up to four chickens in their backyards.
The proposed pilot would operate in Wards 5, 13, 21 and 32 for a period of up to three years with an interim review at 18 months. Backyard chickens would not be allowed in apartment buildings, condominiums or properties without sufficient outdoor space.
Eggs produced by the hens could not be sold and roosters would not be allowed in a henhouse because of the noise they make, according to the motion before council. Participants in the program would have to register and agree to regular inspections.
Council is expected to vote on the pilot project Tuesday, the second day of fall’s first session.
Council also delayed voting on a staff report adding additional animals – including cranes, flamingos and penguins, to the city’s prohibited animal list.
Also, council is expected Tuesday to consider changing the bylaw that currently allows for exemptions to the city’s prohibited animals list – when used for educational purposes.
City staff did not recommend removing chickens from the prohibited animal list. But public consultations earlier this year triggered a proposal to ask council to consider removing them from the list and launching a pilot project.
During Monday night’s debate, councillors used the occasion to joke, cluck and at one point played an audio clip ostensibly of henhouse noise.
“I was wondering if Colonel Sanders has been…consulted,” joked Councillor Jim Karygiannis while questioning Tracey Cook, executive director of municipal licensing and standards.
“He was certainly welcome to answer our public survey, sir, if he was so inclined,” Cook deadpanned.
Councillor Stephen Holyday, firmly in the no-chicken-in-my-backyard-camp, wondered “where does the line get drawn” if the city removes chickens from the prohibited animal list. “Where do we stop? Can I have a cow? I like milk,” Holyday stated.
Some councillors raised concerns about what might happen to unwanted chickens. “I will say we have had occasions where little pot bellied pigs have been dropped off at animal services,” Cook responded.
Councillor Justin Di Ciano, a proponent of the pilot project, said he was tired of the “fear mongering,” adding his father has backyard chickens.
Di Ciano also noted while many other jurisdictions, including Vancouver, Montreal, New York and Brampton, allow residents to keep a few hens, there has been no “massive…public health issue created by backyard chickens.”
Cook told council there have been some examples of Salmonella outbreaks tied to backyard hen flocks “but nothing significant.”