By Kirk Starratt and John DeCoste
People could soon be allowed to keep chickens and roosters as pets in urban and hamlet residential zones in Kings County.
Council has given first reading to Land Use Bylaw and Animal Control Bylaw amendments that would allow the practice.
Alex Loomer’s pet chickens Flame, Rocky, Ace, Flash and Raven became local celebrities after someone complained about the birds. The County of Kings began enforcement action against Loomer for keeping the four roosters and a hen on the 30-acre property in Kingston where he lives. However, the municipality stayed the legal action after a great deal of media attention and public outcry. Council instead decided to undertake a countywide bylaw review. The chickens were an Easter gift to Loomer’s daughter in 2011 and they quickly became beloved family pets.
“It’s been a little bit of a chore, but I’m happy with it,” Loomer said about the amendments passing first reading. “There are a few more rules and regulations to deal with, but they’ve accommodated me.”
Loomer said he’s still a little confused over why all the regulations were necessary, but overall, he views it as a good thing. He’s going to have to get permits and build a couple chicken coops to comply with the new regulations. He has a coop now, but it’s taller than six feet, the maximum height the amendments call for.
Of the original roosters and hen he bought for his daughter over two years ago, Loomer said only one, Flame, has passed away. Loomer said Flame’s brother, Flash, was noticeably lonely, sad and continuously looking for Flame. They decided to get another hen as a companion for Flash. The hen, named Ember, is fitting in nicely, Loomer said.
Recommendations to council
Last year, council instructed its staff to undertake a study on the feasibility of bylaw changes to permit urban chickens on residential-zoned properties. Planner Dawn Sutherland presented the study to the committee of the whole on Sept. 17.
Councillors gave first reading to two sets of bylaw amendments at the Oct. 1 session. The Land Use Bylaw is being amended to allow for urban chickens in low-density Urban and Hamlet residential zones. The Animal Control Bylaw is being amended to allow for the control of urban chickens and the requirement that roosters be kept indoors in the early morning. A public hearing is scheduled prior to council’s consideration of second and final reading on Nov. 5.
During her Sept. 17 presentation, Sutherland said the proposed amendments “require a low level of regulation” for the keeping of urban fowl.
“It is recognized that the amendments contain a greater level of regulation for roosters, as mitigation of noise (i.e.: persistent or early-morning crowing) is a concern in urban areas,” she said.
Sutherland pointed out that many urban areas allow hens but prohibit roosters, which “are known for crowing.” This, she suggested, “can be problematic, especially in the early morning hours.”
About the urban fowl bylaw amendments
- Pending final approval by county council, up to five urban chickens will be permitted in low-density residential zones.
- The allowable limit can include any combination of roosters and hens.
- The fowl will need to be housed in a chicken coop, not to exceed six feet in height. The enclosure will be considered an accessory building (and thus will require a development permit), though permits will not be necessary to keep chickens.
- The sale of eggs and meat is prohibited, as is the slaughter of urban chickens.
- A number of controls specific to roosters were included in the recommendation, including a large minimum lot size, a firm separation distance that cannot be varied, keeping the rooster inside in the early morning hours, and creating an avenue to address unreasonable noise.