The Town of Ladysmith’s next official community plan is expected to allow for backyard chickens.
Council members debated the topic at a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre, after Coun. Ray Gourlay brought up the topic. He said he would be interested in exploring the possibility in “appropriate” neighbourhoods with sufficient lot sizes.
“I think it would align us with most surrounding municipalities that do have a policy around this and it would recognize the high cost of living, inflation, the importance of food security,” he said.
The town last considered backyard chickens in 2017, holding public consultation on the topic, before the municipal services committee ultimately voted not to recommend the related bylaw amendment.
“The feathers are going to fly now,” joked Coun. Marsh Stevens, who said big cities and small towns allow raising chickens and suggested Ladysmith could borrow bylaws and best practices.
Mayor Aaron Stone, a former chicken owner himself, was also in support.
“Almost any size yard is manageable. Always, the underlying issue is keeping them clean and caring for your chickens appropriately … It doesn’t take very long to start attracting issues to your home and your neighbourhood if it’s not well-managed. There’s a certain level of responsibility.”
Coun. Jeff Virtanen said in researching the subject, he found “a lot of cons,” saying chickens can be smelly, noisy, spread disease and attract other animals, and noted that there would be additional work for bylaw enforcement.
“If you want organic chicken eggs, you don’t have to drive very far to get them and you don’t have to do all that shovelling,” he said. “But I do get the pros.”
Coun. Duck Paterson also had reservations. He said backyard chickens would mean “hassle and expense” for the town and suggested he’d prefer community gardens as a food-security initiative.
In response to some of the concerns at the table about chicken care and coop upkeep, Gourlay pointed out that the town already has responsible and irresponsible pet owners and property owners.
“This is just an action I think we can take to demonstrate faith in the people of Ladysmith who want to act in a self-sufficient manner and provide for themselves in an educational and interesting way,” he said.
Since the draft official community plan already has language encouraging “small urban farms including those with urban farm animals such as chickens,” Stone made a motion to recommend withholding further discussion on backyard chickens until after the OCP has been adopted and council begins working on a related implementation policy. The motion passed unanimously.