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London city councillors drop backyard chicken pilot project

File photo.
File photo. Brian McKechnie, Global News

London city councillors plucked the proposed backyard chicken pilot project out of the Urban Agriculture Strategy.

The initiative, which ruffled the feathers of a number of Londoners, was axed during council’s meeting on Tuesday with the majority of members saying it wasn’t a priority for the city.

The idea of allowing residents to keep laying hens on their properties was approved by the planning and environment committee during its meeting last week, but councillors Tanya Park and Jesse Helmer were the only two members of council to support moving ahead with the initiative.

“There are other bigger cities in Canada that have made this work,” Park said pointing to information presented by city staff. “You’ve heard them, Montreal, Edmonton, Toronto. We can do this here.”

Helmer said he understood why some people didn’t want to proceed but wanted to explore the idea further.

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“I think it’s worth proceeding to at least see what kind of licensing would come forward from the (Middlesex London Health Unit) and from our staff in terms of how we could allow it in a limited way,” he said.

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The idea of backyard chickens first came up at city hall about seven years ago and Coun. Harold Usher remembers the discussion and resulting controversy well.

“It was quite a debate that we had and the debate failed and it failed specifically because the majority of the people did not want it,” he said of the original flap over the fowl. “Over the past few days, we’ve all received a number of emails in this regard.”

Other councillors like Ward 14 representative Jared Zaifman acknowledge there could be a big benefit in being able to have access to fresh eggs right in your backyard, but said city council needs to look at the big picture.

“I think we as councillors need to look holistically at the city and say, ‘What makes sense for the whole city?'”

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Coun. Josh Morgan noted there were health concerns related to the chickens, saying similar concerns led to the cancellation of poultry-related events at the Western Fair in the past.

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“There are some people who do this very well, there are some people who do it very poorly. It’s not something that’s very consistent across the board,” Morgan said also pointing out staff are under a lot of pressure already with updated work plans.

“This is not something I want our staff to spend a lot of time on.”

Even though the clucking around backyard hens will likely die down now, the rest of the Urban Agriculture Strategy will carry on. It was unanimously endorsed by councillors during Tuesday’s meeting.

The document highlights urban farms, support for farmers’ markets, community kitchens, community composting and school gardens.