• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Keeping Chickens in the ever-expanding suburbs


PHOTO BY ANDREA BALLARA

While many towns in Vaudreuil-Soulanges still don’t permit backyard chickens in residential neighbourhoods, some have opted to under certain conditions. Find out what it’s like to keep the birds – like proud pet Roo-Roo above, surveying his backyard kingdom.

I was born on a farm right here in Hudson. Fresh eggs were a daily fixture of our breakfast table. This was back when the area was still considered ‘the country,’ but nowadays borders between neighbouring municipalities in Vaudreuil-Soulanges often signal a diametrical by-law swing between being able to enjoy fresh eggs or not in the morning.

“I am disappointed that Saint-Lazare is one of the only communities to not allow backyard chickens (...). Yet, horses and other pets are allowed,” Frank Melnitchi complained recently in a letter to the editor.

“I spoke to our mayor when he was first elected. And I spoke to Lise Jolicoeur. She was the councillor for my district,” Melnitchi told The Journal. “I told her this was a concern of mine. I had wanted chickens for many years.”

Melnitchi said some of the reasons he was given for not allowing chickens in Saint-Lazare was that they would attract coyotes and other predators. Melnitchi claims that residents in Saint-Lazare still keep chickens on their property despite the by-law. “(The City) only goes after them if there is a complaint from the neighbours.

“There was a vote. Councillor Jolicoeur did bring it up because I told her it was important. And it was voted unanimously against,” Melnitchi said. “I find it absurd. Almost every community allows chickens,” he added.

Saint-Lazare Communications Director Geneviève Hamel said the last request from a resident to keep chickens on his property was in 2008. “The reason it was denied was because there was no existing by-law at the time. Questions were raised about nuisances, how manure would be handled, the smell, (...) also about how the project would be handled: how many chickens would be permitted. Would roosters be allowed, how the facilities would be laid out for the chickens,” Hamel explained. She added the city is aware that other municipalities are leading pilot projects for urban chickens, and that it’s up to residents to bring their requests for similar projects in their town.

Saint-Lazare is not the only local municipality that does not allow backyard chickens. In Rigaud, keeping chickens is not permitted. “You can only have chickens if your property is considered to be a farmstead,” said Marie-André Gagnon, Communications Director for the Town of Rigaud.

In Vaudreuil-Dorion, keeping chickens is permitted.

“It is authorized, but highly supervised,” said Jessica Genest, Communications Officer for the Town of Vaudreuil-Dorion. The town has a pilot project that allows residents to keep chickens on their property under very strict conditions that aim to ensure the wellbeing of the animals as well as respect for the neighbourhood, according to the town’s website.

Should you consider keeping chickens on your property, it’s important to note that it’s not as simple a proposition as getting a household pet. While having access to fresh eggs in the morning is appealing, chickens require care beyond what is required for household pets.

Katherine Massam avails herself of the recently passed by-law that allows for backyard chickens in Très-Saint-Rédempteur and she has some advice for people who would like to keep chickens on their property.

“Don’t get a rooster,” she said. Most cities that allow backyard chickens prohibit roosters anyway. While a rooster would allow you to save money on an alarm clock, it would certainly raise the ire of any neighbours who don’t get up at the crack of dawn. And you don’t actually need a rooster for your chickens to lay eggs, as some might believe.

“Just buy laying chickens and not reproducing chickens,” Massam advised. She also said that managing the manure does not require much effort. “Your neighbours would have to be very close for them to smell it,” she said. It also comes in very handy if you grow your own vegetables.

Massam also stressed the importance of building an insulated chicken coop so the chickens can survive the winter. You also need some sort of heating device to keep their water liquid when the temperature dips below zero. “They’re a lot of fun for everyone,” she said. “They’re very comical. They clean up your garden. They eat your table scraps. Our garbage went down by 50 per cent. They also eat insects and mice.”

Predators can indeed be a problem when it comes to chickens. Massam admits losing some of her chickens to a fisher. So, the need for protective measures is indicated.

“We are building a chicken coop with a run so they can be outside, but they will be protected. We will dig down about two feet and put a rigid chicken wire into the ground to put predators off,” Massam said.

Chickens also love human beings. “They follow you around. They talk to you.” Chickens are actually that close to being like household pets with the added benefits of providing food for your table.

If you’re interested in keeping backyard chickens, be sure to check your respective town’s by-laws. Like any pet, if well taken care of, keeping chickens will be a rewarding family experience.

See more photos on our Facebook page.

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