Urban hens in Hamilton are a no-go at council

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Published October 28, 2020 at 2:11 pm

Feathers flew somewhat at a Hamilton City Council meeting on Wednesday (Oct. 28) when a long contentious issue was once again up for debate.

A motion on the Planning Committee’s latest meeting report calling for a pilot project that would allow urban residents to keep backyard chicken coops was shot down by council.

The motion, introduced by Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson, was defeated at committee as well but the item was still pulled from the committee’s report to be debated at Council.

The issue has been brought before previous councils and has met the same fate. Back in 2018, Council voted down a motion that would’ve allowed residents to keep urban hens in their backyard.

As in times past, the debate on Urban hens grew rather heated at times.

When Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann pointed to the success of Toronto’s urban hens bylaw and outlined several statistics that seemed to fly in the face of several concerns voiced by fellow councillors, Ward 14 councillor Terry Whitehead responded by seeming to suggest that Nann was too ‘Toronto-centric.’

“It’s regrettable that people who come from Toronto feel that bringing this back up in Hamilton is the right thing to do,” he said.

He went on to say that it’s “naive” and “misleading” to suggest that what’s right for Toronto is right for Hamilton and doesn’t warrant a comparison.

Nann immediately took “absolute exception” to Whitehead’s remarks and demanded an apology.

Whitehead insisted that he meant no personal offence and said his remarks were directed at “the policy, not the person.”

As the debate moved on, councillors voiced their concerns about the smell of coops, their history of attracting rodents and coyotes, the possibility of chickens becoming a nuisance to neighbours and other concerns.

Others felt the hens addressed an important social issue that has been made that much more prevalent throughout the course of the pandemic: food equity and security.

A healthy hen can lay up to one egg per day, sometimes less sometimes (though rarely) more.

Councillors voted 6 to 10 against an urban hens pilot project in Hamilton.

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