Backyard Hens Spread to York Region
Welcome Newmarket, Ontario!
Yes, another town in Canada joins the list Backyard Egg Laying Friendly Communities.
Over the course of a few years, I did three deputation, a presentation to the Environmental Committee (NEAC), and on the third presentation to Newmarket’s Council, Regional Councilor John Taylor asked a simple question (paraphrase). “Can we decide now if we are going to move forward with this?”.
So they did. I recommended a pilot program and a few years later, the bylaw was amended.
How to Change the Bylaw in your City or Town
Hang in there and keep it positive all the way through. There’s so much supporting the value and safety of egg laying hens, you will need to muddle through the misplaced perceptions that are almost always related to commercial and farm operations such as odor, predation, disease and more.
Concerns raised by council members were always followed up swiftly and communicated to everyone via email, including pertinent staff to ensure they all had the best, most current information.
Get The Opinions Of Respected Organizations
I received a detailed statement from the York Regional Health Officer. This is a biggie. They are neutral. I included a summary of the starment in a report I compiled for the Town of Newmarket. Summarize, don’t overwhelm and always have detailed resources available. When doing a report of this nature, quote sources so anything could be verified. I also received comments from the York Region Food Network noting that egg laying hens in residential backyards supported their objectives. They have a great community garden program too!
One day, I went down to the local SPCA to find out if there was any issue with “Hen Abandonment” after a council member raised the issue. I found every step along the way, that people are happy to share what they know to help.
Follow up all concerns and inform promptly.
Education and Sharing Information are Key.
The misinformation begins to unglue in peoples’ minds after repeating the facts. Be patient. After several months between deputation, some of the same concerns that were addressed would still come up. Just refer to when the concern was addressed and re-issue the information courteously and as often as needed. Education and information works very well but requires “stick-to-itivness”.
What are all the other municipalities doing?
Research what other successful municipalities’ Urban Hen requirements are to formulate a best practices.
Once it got down to City Staff preparing for and presenting a public information session, it was time to step back and let it take it’s course. They are now invested and ready to follow through with a Pilot Program.
The Pilot Program why it works.
What is a Pilot Program? When a limited number of residents are allowed to apply to have backyard hens within a framework (guidelines or rules) determined by the town for a limited period of time (usually a year) under the supervision of the town, to observe and report back to the mayor and council.
Why do pilot programs work?
When the city sees first hand how inert, quiet and pleasant backyard hens are, this is the point where all misplaced perceptions go away. The town or city is only doing it’s due diligence to ensure it really does enrich the community.
Spill Over to Other Municipalities
This already having an effect. I have already consulted to a neighboring municipality looking to allow egg laying hens into residential areas. Another neighboring municipality rejected the idea, but I think they are going to reconsider, and more will join in.
Special thanks to Joanne, my pet hen who turned my own ideas around about the value of fresh eggs from these really awesome eco pets!
Best regards, Marc Mantha the Backyard Chicken Consultant
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