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An 11-year-old Ottawa girl wants to change the rules around backyard chickens


They're cute and they can produce hundreds of eggs per year, but backyard chickens are not allowed in Ottawa.

After learning about food security at school, 11-year-old Violette Ferguson wants fresh eggs and to change the rules around chickens in the city.

"I was wondering how I could change people's minds so that we could have them," Ferguson told CTV News Ottawa.

She started an online petition, and wrote a letter to the mayor asking for change.

"I think that it would be good to have fresh eggs every day. And also, you could learn more about chickens if you had them in your own backyard," she said.

Students at Dunning-Foubert Elementary School grow vegetables and fruit, so she thought – why not eggs at home?

"We learned that some families can't buy food for their children," Ferguson said.

She even has names picked out for her hens, Winnifred and Peppercorn.

Her father is all for having chickens in the backyard.

"I think I'd have to now. Yeah, we'd have to make a deal where she would she would feed to look after them," Nelson Ferguson said.

The city of Ottawa says the Animal Care and Control Bylaw prohibits the keeping of livestock in areas not meant for them.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Roger Chapman, Director of Bylaw and Regulatory Services writes,

"We are excited to see young residents learning about food sustainability and engaging with their community on important issues. However, the Animal Care and Control By-law prohibits the keeping of livestock, including chickens, in areas not zoned for that purpose. Even in rural areas, controls on lot size and chicken numbers are deemed necessary."

Chapman said there are several reasons for continuing to prohibit the keeping of chickens in areas that would not be in compliance with zoning regulations, including but not limited to:

  • accidental acquisition of roosters increasing noise issues, as gender cannot be determined in chicks.
  • animal and other waste disposal
  • attraction of predators, such as coyotes, into suburban/urban neighbourhoods, potentially exposing domestic pets
  • attraction of vermin including rats
  • increased costs for taxpayers for the rescue, investigations and sheltering of abandoned and/or stray chickens.
  • lawful disposition of hens once productivity declines/ceases, noting that slaughtering is illegal outside of a federally inspected abattoir)
  • noise and odour
  • potential fire hazards in enclosures caused by bedding material and heat lamps.
  • potential transmission of zoonotic diseases (those that can be passed from animals to humans)

Some cities do allow backyard chickens or have looser rules under pilot projects. The City of Gatineau, for example, allows laying hens in backyards with a licence and with land size and coop placement requirements.

River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington says he commends Ferguson for her idea.

"When we reviewed this term of council's priorities for Ottawa Bylaw at the beginning of this session, this was not something that we identified. It was not raised by any member of council. I am aware in 2021 the city of Ottawa did try a pilot that was not successful," he said.

Peter, who declined to give his last name, lives in a suburban area of Ottawa and has chickens in his backyard, knowing they are prohibited.

"You got to be smart about it. You got to keep your neighbors happy. You talk to your neighbors, you got to keep giving them fresh eggs because the hens can be noisy a little bit, not like a rooster, but also you got to do your research and keep things clean and be attentive to the chickens," he said.

For him, it's more than a source of eggs – it's also a passion.

"The kids name them, and they're pets and it becomes a hobby. You get fresh eggs and you learn a lot and you just really enjoy the experience."

Ferguson has taken a lesson about food and incubated into an education about civil engagement.

"I would be very happy if they did allow backyard chickens," she said. Top Stories

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