By: Tanya Edwards
A revolution is quietly hatching in Georgina, mainly in backyards, beyond the public eye.
It’s being instigated by the owners of un-permitted backyard chickens, united by a common belief in their right to self-sustainability — let’s call them the Chicken Rebels.
They are a close-knit group, supporting each other, offering advice and until now, quietly disagreeing with the animal zoning regulations in Georgina. This quiet discontent may soon change.
In 2016, Keswick resident Melody Bertolini lost her plea to convince Georgina to allow backyard chickens to be regulated — much as dogs and cats are.
Her suggestions included many sound ideas: a limit to flock size, coop regulations, and no roosters in populated areas.
However, her entreaties fell largely on deaf ears. Despite supportive neighbours and a 500 signature petition, she was ordered to remove her flock in 30 days.
She did one better, after living in Georgina for more than 20 years, she moved her entire life and flock to Gravenhurst — outside the restricted zone.
But the truth is hens, although social, are relatively quiet, and a rooster isn’t needed to produce eggs.
And for most of Georgina’s Chicken Rebels, moving is not an option. Neither is chicken ignorance. Most anti-chicken complaints are due to noise and smell.
Like any good pet owner, responsible chicken owners need to keep the area clean, the animals safe and dangerous predators at a minimum.
Public Health has produced lengthy reports on the fact that owning chickens would pose no more of a health risk than owning a cat or a dog.
As a result, chicken regulations are changing all over the province. In 2017, Newmarket allowed backyard chickens in all wards.
In 2018, Toronto kicked off UrbanHensTO, allowing regulated chicken coops in 4 wards. Meanwhile, requests to increase the number of wards continues to grow.
Kingston, Brampton, Niagara Falls, Caledon, Etobicoke, all agreed their populace had the right to be more self-sustainable and connected to their food supply. Why not in Georgina?
One Chicken Rebel I spoke with, who insists on remaining anonymous for the safety of her hens, believes we need more “live and let live.”
“I want to be able to grow my own vegetables, and I want my own eggs, ” she says.
She points out that a chicken in a typical factory farm lays for two years, then likely becomes dog food, while a backyard chicken can lay eggs for up to 10 years and remains a family pet — much kinder and more humane.
‘Rebel G’ is ready to defend her right to keep her chickens. After all, her neighbour doesn’t mind, and she keeps a clean flock.
Her family also enjoys fresh organic eggs, and the children have made pets out of them. It would break their hearts to lose them now.
What divides the “pro” chicken people and the “No” to chickens people? Misunderstanding? Bad experiences? City vs Country? Coprophobia?
The reasons may vary, but the fact remains, for many, the chickens are wanted.
Is it time for Georgina to step into the new age of backyard chickens? We’ll soon see.
The Town plans to hold a series of public meetings this fall. Perhaps a new pro-chicken by-law is in the works? After all, weed is legal now, so isn’t time to finally legalize backyard chicken coops? We say “good cluck” to that!