Crew to ask staff to investigate allowing people to have laying hens in urban areas

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Fresh chicken eggs just may be as close as the backyard for many urban Chatham-Kent residents.

Council will be asked Jan. 28 to consider a motion filed by Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew asking that administration investigate the pros and cons of allowing laying hens to be kept in urban areas.

"It would allow people to have a readily available supply of fresh eggs,'' Crew told The Daily News Thursday. "More and more people are interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables.''

Crew said Chatham-Kent wouldn't be the only municipality with such a bylaw. She said urban residents are now allowed to keep hens in Kingston, Brampton and Guelph as well as in Victoria and Vancouver B.C.

"I fully realize there are a lot of pros and cons to the idea,'' she said. "There are lots of things to consider such as noise issues, a safe environment for hens and food safety.''

She said it would also have to be a safe, neighbour-friendly endeavour.

Crew, who said she wouldn't be interested in keeping hens on her property, said she has been asked about the prospect by a number of people, including Sherry Poppe of Chatham, who was ordered in December to get rid of her five laying hens and one rooster.

Poppe kept a chicken coop in the yard of a four-plex apartment she rents in north Chatham.

She said her chickens were more than pets to her - they were also a means of financial survival.

She told The Daily News her hens provided a valuable source of free eggs, which she shared with her neighbours and friends.

Poppe, who is on social assistance, said the eggs and vegetables she grows in pots, along with a part-time job, help her survive financially with her boyfriend.

"I barely make it,'' she said. "If we didn't do this we'd be at the food bank every day and bills wouldn't get paid if I didn't have my chickens in my backyard.''

Poppe said Thursday she's hopeful council will follow through with a bylaw allowing urban residents to keep a few chickens on their property.

"I'm really hoping they agree,'' she said.

Poppe said she has taken her rooster -- the cause of a noise complaint -- to a farm.

"The chickens are quiet,'' she said. "You wouldn't even know they are around.''

Paul Lacina, Chatham-Kent' chief building inspector, said the order against Poppe to get rid of her chickens is "on hold'' until after the Jan. 28 council meeting.

"I'm waiting to see what council decides,'' he said. "In the meantime I'm gathering some background information that will be part of my report.''

Lacina said he has also been informed by the owner of a couple of dozen large geese that frequent the Thames River in Chatham that he voluntarily plans to do away with them in the coming weeks.



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