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Hen group 'clucking' away at Stephenville council to get pilot project approved

While waiting to make a presentation to the Stephenville town council on a backyard hens presentation, members of Cluck Stephenville listen in to discussions at the meeting including from left: Jeffrey Young, Sarah Hood and Stephanie Dove-Day.
While waiting to make a presentation to the Stephenville town council on a backyard hens presentation, members of Cluck Stephenville listen in to discussions at the meeting including from left: Jeffrey Young, Sarah Hood and Stephanie Dove-Day. - Frank Gale

Despite having their proposal for backyard hens turned down earlier this year, Cluck Stephenville is still “clucking” away at trying to get a pilot project approved.

Members of the group met with the Stephenville town council after its regular general meeting on Thursday; however, three of the councillors were absent.

Coun. Maurice Hynes and Coun. Don Gibbon said they had to leave due to work commitments but Coun. Mike Tobin said he didn’t stay because he feels he already has enough information on the subject.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Stephenville town council, in its recent vote ‘crossed the Rubicon’,” he said.

He explained this phrase alludes to Julius Caesar's crossing the Rubicon River (between Italy and Gaul) in 49 B.C., thereby starting a war against Pompey and the Roman Senate. To remain in Gaul meant forfeiting his power to his enemies in Rome. Crossing the river into Italy would be a declaration of war.

Tobin said today the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” is an idiom that means to pass a point of no return.

He said that’s where he is on the backyard hens subject as the town council had to first deal with it back in 2013 when council members had to vote to have backyard chickens removed from a property on Maple Street.

Then on Feb. 7 of this year when the Urban Hens Regulations were proposed, the pilot project was turned down with a 4-2 vote, with Mayor Tom Rose and Deputy Mayor Susan Fowlow in favour and the other four councillors in attendance (Gibbon, Tobin, Aylward and Hynes) against. Coun. Mark Felix was absent from the meeting.

Tobin said he gave his reasons for voting against the motion at the time – which included people informing him that they don’t want it in their back yard, that hens create noxious odours and that it attracts rodents.

That flies in the face of what Sarah Hood of Cluck Stephenville had to say in her presentation, as she told those councillors in attendance that chicken coops are not big or intrusive and that noise, smell and attracting rodents are not valid arguments when it comes to backyard hens.

She and her husband, Gavin Layman, raised hens when they were living in Port au Port but were forced to get rid of them when they moved to Stephenville.

Hood said they had seven of them, which is not far off the five hens that they are proposing in their pilot project for Stephenville that would be over a two-year period.

She said they would be looking at regulations, like those that exist in Corner Brook, have them drawn up and present them to council to look over.

Hood said the pilot could be evaluated on things like the number of nuisance reports and whether there are people neglecting their hens.

“We’re not looking for a straight change to the town’s regulations, but a trial to determine whether this could work,” she said.

About CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klubs) Stephenville:

CLUCK Stephenville is one of many CLUCK groups across the country.

With Newfoundland importing 71% of its food supply raising backyard hens to lay eggs provides a steady source of fresh protein that didn't need to be trucked in to Stephenville.

Chickens will eat vegetable scraps and the manure they produce can be composted and used to grow more vegetables closing the loop for the home gardener.

The eggs produced by backyard hens are also healthier than store bought eggs with one-third less cholesterol, one-quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, two times more Omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta carotene.

There is no Avian Flu in Canada or the US. The public Health Agency of Canada conducted a study of backyard chickens and found no reason to not to have them.

There is no evidence to support that backyard hens cause or exasperate asthma or respiratory illnesses. Salmonella can be spread by chickens no differently than by pet birds, reptiles and fish and can be found in many supermarket foods such as eggs, peanut butter, tomatoes and peppers.

Predators are already present in this area. Other pets such as cats, small dogs, and rabbits are equally at risk. Responsible chicken owners would ensure their chickens are kept in a secure coop and run as per the proposed regulations.

Pests - Backyard hens help reduce the number of small rodents and insects. Chickens will attack and eat both! Pests are here because of displacement by development, improper garbage disposal, bird feeders, feeding pets outside and fast food litter.

Noise - We are asking for 5 hens...not roosters. A normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels which is the same as chickens clucking. In contrast a barking dog can reach over 90 decibels.

Smell - On average coops are not generally detected by odour to within two meters of them. Ten backyard hens create less waste than a 40lb dog...and we are only asking for five. Chickens themselves do not smell.

Maintaining clean coops and healthy chickens would be part of the regulations and is already covered by the Animal Health and Protection Act. Chicken waste smells less than dog waste and the manure can be used to grow food once composted.

We are asking for a pilot program adapting the regulations already in place in Corner Brook and St. John's. The program would allow for five laying hens, no roosters, no slaughter, must be kept in a coop and run, food must be in rodent proof containers and waste must be disposed of safely.

CLUCK Stephenville members would be available to give advice and help new chicken owners get started.

CLUCK Stephenville can be found under the same name on Facebook.

Source: CLUCK Stephenville

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