June 1, 2018 6:29 pm
Updated: June 1, 2018 6:43 pm

Backyard chicken coop causes controversy in Saint-Lazare

WATCH: A controversy is brewing in St-Lazare over a couple's unlawful chicken coop in their backyard. As Global's Dan Spector reports, chicken coops are not allowed in the town unless you run an actual farm – but the cockfight has just begun.

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A controversy is brewing in Saint-Lazare over some backyard chickens.

Rick and Hitomi Thorpe have been running a coop in their back yard for about a year.

“My wife asked me if I’d be interested in having chickens as a project for the kids. You know, to teach them about responsibility and raising animal,” Thorpe explained next to the coop in his backyard.

He built the whole thing himself. It gives the family an endless supply of eggs, and the couple’s kids adore it.

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“It’s always a huge source of wonder, especially for the kids who come visit our family,” he said.

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Before building the coop, Thorpe says he checked the Saint-Lazare website to make sure it was allowed. He says he didn’t find anything saying he couldn’t do it.

“I didn’t contact the city, but I figured because it wasn’t on the website that it was a green light,” he told Global News.

But the Thorpes recently found out that light was as red as a chicken’s comb — chickens are only allowed in Saint-Lazare if you have an actual farm.

The six chickens calling a residential backyard home are running afoul of the law. For a long time, they pecked and clucked in peace, but the rooster gave them away.

The Thorpes have one month to get rid of their backyard chickens.

Dan Spector/Global News

“We wound up with the rooster by mistake,” Thorpe said. “When you buy chickens they come as day-old chicks.”

“We didn’t realize he was a rooster until about three months in. The kids had grown attached so we took a chance to see if we could make it work.”

That plan didn’t pan out. After a neighbour complained about the early-morning noise, a city inspector showed up.

They gave the rooster away, but the secret was out.

READ MORE: Raising chickens in Montreal, not for everybody

“The inspector also saw the chickens and he couldn’t look the other way on that,” Thorpe told Global News.

Now the family has been told all the chickens have to be gone within a month. Farm animals are not allowed on residential property.

“Farm animals could be cows, pigs, horses, but these are chickens. It’s not the same thing at all,” the chicken owner said.

Other neighbouring communities like Vaudreuil-Dorion allow backyard chickens, but currently Saint-Lazare does not.

“It’s not a question of why or why not chickens — it’s just not part of our regulations,” said Saint-Lazare Nayor Robert Grimaudo.

Grimaudo says Saint-Lazare is already in the midst of studying the file. The Thorpes hope to be able to keep their coop during that process.

“The council will make that decision,” he said.

What will come first, the new chicken rules or the chicken eviction? It should be clearer at the Saint-Lazare council meeting on June 12.

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