Urban chicken coop push lays an egg

By Jeff Labine
Published: July 27, 2016

Thunder Bay won’t be seeing chicken coops in backyards anytime soon.

City council squashed the idea at Monday night’s meeting following an 8-4 vote. Mayor Keith Hobbs and councillors Trevor Giertuga, Paul Pugh, Brian McKinnon, Larry Hebert, Joe Virdiramo, Iain Angus and Aldo Ruberto all voted against changing the bylaw to allow urban chicken coops.

The mayor and councillors each had their own reasons for voting down the changes, which ranged from the bylaw enforcement and licensing not having enough teeth to the lot sizes being too small.

At-Large Coun. Rebecca Johnson, who supported the idea, said this was an opportunity to do something for the youth in the community who wanted urban chicken coops.

Neebing Coun. Linda Rydholm agreed and called it a crime that children would be denied a chance to interact with chickens in an urban setting.

Prior to the meeting, Gary Ramsdale, his wife Arlene and their grandchildren held a protest of the bylaw change outside city hall. Ramsdale, who spoke out against urban chickens at a previous council meeting, wanted to show that the bylaw doesn’t provide a lot of guidance when it comes to building a chicken coop, which he demonstrated by constructing one in less than 20 minutes. The bylaw does restrict the dimensions that a coop must be.

Regardless whether or not council would change the bylaw doesn’t matter to Ramsdale who believes that chickens are not pets and are meant for rural farms.

“My son has chickens, he is in a rural area,” he said. “My daughter wants chicken meat, they go out to a farmer, they pay him . . . they chop off the head and they have meat for the whole family. Real good chicken meat. The thing is why did we get rid of chickens back in the 50s? It was a problem. We got rid of all livestock. And they aren’t calling them pets. Chickens are a livestock first and maybe a pet second. Just like a goat is a livestock first and a pet second. A pet is a companion. I’ve never seen anyone walking around with a chicken.”

Prior to the vote by council, Ramsdale believed that the majority would vote against the bylaw change.

Brandon Postuma, who is with the Kakabeka Depot, a local agricultural company that sells chicks, told The Chronicle-Journal on Tuesdaythat the decision by council was unfortunate. Postuma, who gave a passionate presentation to council in June, said he wasn’t surprised.

“We have an unprogressive city council and it is going to be exciting to see that change in a couple of years when new people come in,” he said. “It is an election issue for a lot of people. This is just an example of Thunder Bay city council or the majority of our city council’s failure to move forward or be progressive on anything that doesn’t benefit them or their family.”

Postuma mentioned that Oliver Paipoonge is possibly looking at introducing urban chickens. He said the township will put it through and show that they are more progressive than Thunder Bay.

“In Thunder Bay, they think they are Toronto,” he added. “It’s not Toronto — you’re Thunder Bay, you are in the middle of nowhere. People want chickens, give them chickens. Oliver Paipoonge realizes that they are going to be a progressive, fast moving community and they will be putting that ahead.”

Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloostrhuis told The Chronicle-Journal that so far there are no plans before council to introduce urban chickens. Kloostrhuis said they have rural areas that have chickens already and added that they discuss all ideas that are brought forward.

“That would be something we would discuss amongst council and of course our residence in the urban and village areas,” she added. “Nothing has been brought to us.”

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