© Frank Gale photo
Tatum Ryan holds one of her five hens in front of the pen she had built for them on her property. Stephenville town council has ordered the hens be removed.
Tatum Ryan is at a loss to understand why she has to remove chickens from her property at 5 Maple St. in Stephenville, when a man in Corner Brook was able to obtain a temporary permit to keep his backyard hens.
At a Stephenville town council meeting on June 13, an order was issued to the owner of the property at 5 Maple Street, pursuant to provisions of Section 404 of the Municipalities Act 199, Chapter M-24 and Section 102 of the Urban and Rural Planning Act 2000, to remove the livestock (chickens) within 14 days of the date of delivery of the order.
Ms. Ryan said this order is mostly related to the enclosure she had built and it’s because she didn’t have a permit to build it.
“I didn’t think I would need a permit to build a pen as it does not have a closed-in roof or walls and is not weather-proofed by any means,” she said. “I’d like to take every opportunity to collaborate with the town to obtain the proper permits and/or develop an ordinance for allowing backyard chickens.”
She spoke with Rhea Hutchings, supervisor of sustainable development in Corner Brook, who said the man in Corner Brook who obtained a temporary permit to keep his backyard hens was able to make a case promoting the benefits of backyard chickens as part of the city’s evolving sustainability plan.
Ms. Hutchings has stated when the residential zoning regulations were looked at, the city council realized there wasn’t any language/wording specifically relating to chickens, so council really couldn’t deny the man a permit.
Ms. Ryan said with a city the size of Corner Brook able to accommodate that man, she can’t understand why a town the size of Stephenville can’t accommodate her, especially since she has a double lot with a total of 1,921 square metres of land.
On the verge of extinction
Ms. Ryan's backyard hens are actually heritage breeds, meaning they are rare and on the verge of extinction, including three Houdon’s, one Australorp and one Cochin. She said the fact hens have the capacity to lay eggs shouldn’t be the only determining factor in lumping them in a livestock category.
“The fact is we (she and her three kids) have no rooster for breeding our hens, nor any interest in generating income from the eggs they lay,” she said. “Rather, we want to enjoy them as pets.”
Ms. Ryan said there is little odour from the hens and they make very little noise. She said her children took around a petition in the neighbourhood last year and it was signed by 60 people in support of the family keeping the animals.
“I am aware of only one neighbour who opposes the hens and I’m not sure of the reasons,” she said.
Ms. Ryan said backyard hens are allowed in London, Ont., and Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. There is also a pilot project allowing backyard hens in Fredericton, N.B., along with the one in Corner Brook.
These are urban areas where she said there is a progressive movement to allow folks the opportunity to self-sustain their families with food, not only from their gardens, but from a small flock of laying hens or dual-purpose birds.
Ms. Ryan plans to appeal the decision of the Stephenville town council to the Western Regional Appeals Board.
Considered to be livestock
Stephenville Mayor Tom O’Brien said Ms. Ryan is certainly welcome to make her appeal, as that is part of the process. He said any decision of the town council could be appealed to the board.
He said this matter was dealt with last year, and the owner was told then the hens are considered to be livestock and not permitted in the town.
In relation to the situation in Corner Brook, Mayor O’Brien said he can only speak for the town of Stephenville’s regulations and under those regulations it’s clear that livestock is not permitted to be kept in town and chickens clearly fall under the heading of livestock.
In regards to Ms. Ryan saying there is only person complaining about the hens, Mayor O’Brien said the town has received at least three complaints from the neighbourhood.