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3rd try not the charm for Hamilton’s urban hen supporters

A majority of Hamilton politicians remain opposed to allowing chicken coops in urban areas. Global Okanagan/Kelowna

A familiar issue and a familiar result at Hamilton city hall.

Members of Hamilton’s planning committee, in a vote of 5-3, has chosen not to study a pilot project that would allow for the keeping of a limited number of backyard hens by urban residents in parts of the lower city.

City council will have the final say when it meets next week, but the initial result at committee mirrors the outcome of backyard chicken debates in 2012 and 2018.

Read more: Hamilton politicians still resistant to backyard hens

Mike Bozzo, one of two residents who spoke to committee in support of the pilot project, tried to alleviate odour concerns which have been a main point of opposition.

Bozzo acknowledges that 30 hens would create odour problems, but in limited numbers, as proposed in Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson’s motion for a pilot project, he insists that with “four to six, and you clean your coop out on a monthly basis, you will have no smell.”

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Wilson argues in favour of urban hens as a food security issue, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has made it “crucial for cities to enable food resilience and improve access to inexpensive and nutritious foods close to home.”

Read more: Hamilton resident’s plea to keep pet ducks is denied

The keeping of chickens within Hamilton’s urban areas continues to draw heavy opposition from the city’s rural and suburban councillors.

Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson says “the smell of chicken manure is the worst smell.”

Ferguson adds that while the two people who delegated to committee on Tuesday are responsible owners, “some may not when it gets out there, and I spend way too much of my time in my community getting pulled into neighbour disputes.”

Read more: Backyard chickens now allowed in parts of Toronto as part of 3-year pilot project

Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark says his experience with hens in the rural area is that “they do get out, they do get all over the place and there are issues.”

For Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge, voting against the pilot project comes down to the fact that she does “not support livestock in the urban area.”

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The defeated motion called for staff to put together a report on what a pilot project for urban hens in wards 1, 2 and 3 would look like, based on food resilience, and with a review of best practices and bylaws in other municipalities.

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