Fowl runnings

Kelligrews couple told chickens have to fly the coop

Josh Pennell Josh.pennell@thetelegram.com
Published on February 28, 2016

Why did the two Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers and the Conception Bay South enforcement officer cross the road?

In what a C.B.S. couple feel was an unnecessary show of force, the three came to their door last week to tell the couple that they had to get rid of the three chickens they keep on their property in Kelligrews.

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In 2011 the couple had eight hens they were keeping for eggs. They had them for two years they say without any complaints, but when they approached the town for a permit to build a fence and it was discovered they had the chickens, they were told they had to either get a permit or get rid of them. The permit process became beyond confusing, the couple says.

“There wasn’t actually a specific permit to apply for,” says Alicia Penney Harnum.

“They wouldn’t lead us in the right path and tell us what we had to do.”

When they were applying for the permit they had to put in the paper that they were looking to keep a few chickens to let the neighbours know, though she adds at that point their immediate neighbours knew anyway.

“I applied for them to keep them as pets, but they put it in the paper that I was applying for a hobby farm,” she says.

Alicia’s husband, Fred Harnum, says that when he was speaking to a town official about the permit process he was told that it had to go in the paper, but that it didn’t really matter if nobody in the area had an issue with it because at the end of the day it would be up to council’s discretion.

The permit request was denied and the couple appealed, but that also didn’t get them anywhere. Because there were no complaints from neighbours that they knew of and they never got any official letter from the town telling them to get rid of them, they kept the chickens.

“After the appeal, nobody came down. Nobody bothered us,” says Alicia.

They did relocate a goat they had for milking at one point. A couple of chickens died for unknown reasons and they also had a mink get in their coop. They have had at least three chickens for years and the same enforcement officer started coming to their door repeatedly over the last six months telling them they had to remove them. One evening he knocked on their door at 9 p.m. He carried no order from the town, the couple says, and they never received anything in the mail.

Last week the enforcement officer showed up with two members of the RNC to tell them to get rid of the birds. This time he did carry a letter from the town stating they had until March 11 to get rid of the chickens. It says if they don’t comply they could face a fine no less than $500, possible jail time of no more than three months, or both. It was the first time Fred had ever been home when the enforcement officer has come by.

“Other than me getting third-party answers from everybody else, I’ve never talked to this man about any of this. And then he shows up with two police.”

In St. John’s a household is allowed to keep three backyard chickens. Due to it being the weekend, it wasn’t possible to speak with anyone at the C.B.S. Town Hall about the community’s policies on keeping a few backyard birds, but C.B.S. Mayor Stephen Tessier did tell The Telegram it’s not outside the norm for the couple not to get anything official from the town.

“The enforcement officers would know the bylaws so I would imagine if somebody filed a complaint of some sort the enforcement would be there to follow up on it,” Tessier said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that it would go through council. Enforcement is there to enforce the bylaws.”

Fred says part of the reason they moved to C.B.S. was so they could have a little more room and the freedom to grow some veggies and keep a few animal such as chickens that would help them become more self-sufficient.

“I could understand if we had a hundred chickens here and we’re selling eggs,” he says, adding that given all the talk about food security these days he would have thought keeping a few chickens would be something municipalities would promote.

The couple actually now only has one chicken they have to relocate. Since last week, two of the three have died of unknown causes. Their final chicken, Brownie, will be going to stay with some friends.