World War Two vet battles city hall over a backyard chicken coop
Published Friday, September 16, 2016 5:04PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 16, 2016 6:48PM EDT
A 94-year-old World War Two vet says he helped fight the battle for a free world but has lost his own personal battle to raise some chickens in Ottawa. Dr. Paul Holtom built a chicken coop a few months ago in his backyard in suburban Stittsville. That is, until Ottawa bylaw found out. To be fair, Dr. Holtom knew he was going against a city bylaw building his chicken coop. But, he wanted fresh eggs and decided to take a chance.
Every morning, Dr. Paul Holtom would take his cup of coffee, sit beside his chicken coop and talk to his chickens.
“It was a bit of a relaxation for me,” says Holtom, “it took off some of the stress of aging.”
The 94-year-old, who is still a practicing chiropractor, eats organically and was raising the chickens for eggs and companionship.
“I built the coop,” he says, “It took me a couple of weeks.”
In May, he bought 6 chickens, knowing full well it wasn't allowed in Ottawa.
“You never know until you try. That’s the whole thing of life.”
And try he did, twice, after two complaints. The first time, he got rid of the chickens, only to bring them back into his yard about a month later. The second time resulted in a $600 fine. This time, he decided the chickens would have to go for good. He’s frustrated by it all.
“I spent 5 years of my life in the air force, to protect our privacy and our rights,” he says, “and I come home and they start to take these things away from me. I don’t feel very good about it.”
But the city says the rules have to apply to everybody.
Under the city bylaw, “Chickens are considered livestock and can be kept on any property in the City of Ottawa which has "agriculture" as a permitted use in the zoning by-law. There are no plans at present to amend this provision,” Adam Brown, Ottawa’s Manager of Rural Development Review wrote in an email. In other words, not in an urban backyard like Holstom’s. Joanne Cooney raises chickens in her rural backyard where it is still not legal.
“There are so many people in the city of Ottawa that have chickens and are doing it and nobody knows,” says Cooney, as she feeds her two free-range chickens in her backyard, “It’s like some dirty little secret.”
She is part of a group that had been lobbying the city to change the rules. Cooney says the city of Ottawa has the largest rural base of any other city in Ottawa.
“People move to the country not realizing they are still within the city limits, within city rules,” she says, “and they think they can just raise a couple chickens. But, no, I am still zoned “residential.”
Cooney says the bylaw needs to be amended.
“Just amend the bylaw, loop them in so they need permits like dogs,” she says, “put structure around it and there you go.”
Holtom's chickens now live with one of his patients on a farm who still supplies him with their eggs. He is not missing out on the cholesterol, just the companionship. Holtom is making plans to move out of the city, into a more rural setting, so he can bring his chickens home.