Darby Jones moved a small step closer last week toward enabling Winnipeggers to do what many rural Manitobans do: raise chickens in their backyards.
A Winnipeg civic committee voted to refer Jones’s backyard chicken petition to a city council committee for further study.
The Riel Community Committee passed the issue on to the city’s standing policy committee on property and development to review and report back with recommendations.
The committee did so despite reservations from councillors Dan Vandal and Gord Steeves about the idea of raising poultry inside the city.
Later, Jones said he was both pleased and surprised at the outcome.
“I was totally expecting a nay on all counts,” he said.
Jones and his colleague Stephanie Fulford made their proposal on behalf of Chickens for WinnipEGGers, a group calling for bylaw amendments so city residents may keep a few laying hens for fresh eggs.
Jones said several hundred people have expressed interest.
Winnipeg currently restricts agricultural animals within city limits under both its zoning and exotic animal bylaws. The latter bans horses, cattle, hogs, goats, sheep, poultry and bees except where zoning permits them.
Jones and Fulford said an increasing number of North American cities allow backyard chickens for personal use, including five cities in Ontario and four in British Columbia.
Their proposal would see residents allowed a limited number of hens for eggs but not for meat. No roosters would be permitted, so no one would be disturbed by crowing. Hens would have insulated, ventilated chicken coops where they could be overwintered.
Jones acknowledged people probably wouldn’t save money from having their own hens, especially when eggs are easily available at local food stores for around $2 a dozen.
But it would give them the satisfaction of producing their own food, he said.
“So that we can have control over where our food comes from. So we can educate our friends and families about what they’re eating and how they’re eating it.”
Paul Chorney, community liaison officer for Food Matters Manitoba, said the local food movement is growing and people want to be part of the food production system.
“Really it’s a shift in the way we think about food.”
Chorney said Winnipeg should have a comprehensive food policy plan such as one recently adopted by the City of Toronto.
Such a plan would outline the city’s role in licensing, regulating and procuring locally grown food for local use, Chorney said.
A draft city plan called Our Winnipeg, recently unveiled for discussion, mentions urban agriculture but doesn’t go as far as the Toronto plan, he said.
A Chicken Farmers of Canada spokesperson said her organization has no policy on backyard chickens in urban centres.
But CFC is concerned about the possible spread of disease from birds not raised in a controlled bio-secure environment, such as commercially grown poultry have, she said.
Unregulated backyard flocks were suggested as the possible origin of a 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia. But that was never established. [email protected]