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City councillors chicken out on hen debate

General committee refuses to consider a fowl suggestion
Barrie city councillors at a general committee meeting Monday night. Robin MacLennan/BarrieToday

Chickens are off the table in Barrie, after councillors refused to debate a suggestion from residents looking for a source of fresh and organic eggs for their families.

Allowing hens to be raised in city backyards was suggested by a resident through Barrie's online suggestion forum. Because the request received over 500 votes, the suggestion was presented to councillors at a general committee meeting.

"The suggestion obtained enough support from Barrie residents to have staff investigate its viability," Gord Allison, director of building and bylaw services, wrote in a memo to general committee.

Currently, a bylaw prohibits domestic fowl from city backyards.

Marissa, a city resident, requested the rules be changed to allow a maximum of eight hens, no roosters or home slaughter and regulations to keep coops clean. 

"Hens are quiet and docile creatures, certainly much quieter than the barking dogs many of us have in our neighbourhoods," she wrote on the online forum.

It took close to two years for the suggestion to solicit over 500 votes and about two minutes for councillors to decide to take no action.

Counc. Arif Khan suggested sending the suggestion to the community services committee for review.

"I think its worthy of a discussion," he said. "It did meet the threshold of 500 votes to be referred to council. We have had other suggestions that came in far lighter than 500."

When he asked "how heavy was the support?" Mayor Jeff Lehman had a quick response.

"How heavy? I think they're about 10 or 15 pounds each," Lehman quipped.

Khan compared keeping backyard chickens for eggs to "sustainable" practices such as community gardens.

Without a peep from anyone else, councillors who voted 9-2 to take no action on hens.

What's next?

A suggestion to "not ban all pythons and boas in Barrie" currently has gathered 110 votes in the online suggestion forum.

"Take for example Ball Pythons," the resident wrote.

"Heck, they get their name because they're so docile. They only get 4-6 feet full grown, and wouldn't survive if they were let loose."

Just 390 votes to go.

Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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