The days of it being illegal to raise chickens within the haven of hospitality are coming to an end.
West Hants council recently sought to amend its land use bylaw for household livestock in residential and commercial zones to allow specific farm animals to be raised on properties located throughout the former town.
Prior to the revisions, only horses were permitted in Hantsport.
Once the amendments are approved provincially, residents will be able to own a whole gamut of livestock, as long as their property is big enough.
“Residents have expressed a desire to raise livestock for personal enjoyment and as a food resource. Council wishes to encourage the raising of livestock for personal use,” explained Saira Shah, a planner with the municipality, as West Hants council discussed the proposed changes on Feb. 12.
Shah said there would be restrictions on the number of animals permitted on a lot. For example, property owners of lots up to and including one-quarter of an acre, may have a combination of rabbits and chickens to a total of five animals, and this includes roosters, broilers and laying hens. For owners of lots that are greater than a quarter of an acre, up to and including five acres, a total of 15 animals, representing a combination of rabbits and chickens, including roosters, broilers and laying hens, will be permitted.
Property owners with lots greater than five acres are allowed significantly more animals, which are measured by animal units, plus more types of animals — like cows and sheep.
“Animal units for Hantsport are a little bit different than what we have in West Hants,” said Shah. “The major difference is when you get to the chickens. For laying hens and broiler chickens, 80 chickens are considered one unit for the Hantsport amendment. Currently what you have in West Hants is 25 chickens is considered one animal unit.”
According to the amendments, four types of farm animals would not be permitted: peacocks, bulls, minks and guinea fowl.
Residents concerned with disease, unsanitary conditions
Not everyone is pleased that Hantsport is becoming more rural.
Laurie and Marg Johnston, of Maple Avenue, wrote a letter to express their opposition to the bylaw amendment. They indicated the street they live on “has always been a lovely and clean subdivision with a beautiful view of the Avon River” but were concerned with how the bylaw amendments would affect their property value.
Maple Avenue has 32 properties, of which, the Johnstons said 30 would fall under the 15 animals allowed limit and two would fall under the rule allowing five animals.
“In total for Maple Avenue, the bylaw would allow 460 animals in our beautiful subdivision. Maple Avenue is 1,820 feet long. The bylaw being proposed would allow approximately four animals per foot of street,” they wrote.
Concerns about sanitary conditions were also raised.
The Johnstons said they were concerned that vermin would be attracted to the neighbourhood, especially if people were not looking after their animals. Additionally, they said they were concerned about “disease being carried by chickens to migrating birds and the threat of disease to commercial poultry operations” and questioned the municipality allowing livestock to be slaughtered on site.
“I also see in the bylaw that slaughter is now being allowed on these properties. What a wonderful sight to behold. If you’ve never seen it, it is very unpleasant.”
The Johnstons urged council to reconsider the bylaw amendment as it was being presented.
Reid Fletcher, also of Maple Avenue, was present at the Feb. 12 public hearing and also spoke against the changes, touching on several of the Johnston’s concerns.
“I’m assuming right now people in Hantsport are not allowed to have chickens. Is that true?” asked Fletcher, indicating there were several people already raising chickens in the former town.
He wanted to know what was being done to enforce the existing bylaw that prohibited chickens.
“It’s done on a complaint-based system. If someone were to complain to a development officer and say that their neighbour has chickens and then he would investigate them,” said Shah.
With the passing of the amendments, the onus would still be on the neighbours to complain if a property owner was breaking the rules.
That didn’t sit well with Fletcher, who said it shouldn’t be up to neighbours to police the bylaw.
“I don’t like pitting neighbour against neighbour over piddly things. This I don’t consider piddly,” he said.
Fletcher said while not everyone will jump at the opportunity to raise chickens, the reality exists that many will — and that could change the composition of their quiet community.
“All the people in Hantsport, I like them all. My neighbours are friends; they have chickens. People on the planning committee have chickens. How do you think they’re going to write that up? They’re going to write it to their advantage, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, urging council to reconsider the amendments.
“It doesn’t fit with everybody, or the majority. This satisfies some.”
Councillors weigh in
Some councillors voiced their concerns over the fact that there were different definitions for animal units between Hantsport and the rest of West Hants. Others asked why the changes couldn’t be addressed when Windsor and West Hants merge into one municipality — noting that the Town of Windsor has its own bylaw that allows four chickens, no roosters, per household. Other livestock isn’t allowed.
Coun. Randy Hussey took issue with how many animals were to be allowed to be raised on small plots of land.
“I think we’ve been doing it wrong since the start. I think we should have a permit system,” said Hussey.
“If people want to have animals they should come and apply for a permit, their neighbour should be asked, depending on how many animals there are, and if the neighbours don’t agree with it, then they shouldn’t have it,” he continued.
“Livestock is not meant to be in densely-populated areas so I will not be voting for this.”
Coun. Kathy Monroe shared a similar sentiment and noted that Hantsport is not as rural as some parts of West Hants.
“It was a town until not too long ago. It’s built like a town,” said Monroe, noting the property lots are much smaller than found in the more rural ridings.
Coun. Robbie Zwicker, who lives in Hantsport and owns chickens, was supportive of the amendments.
“It’s ironic; (on) a street just behind Maple Avenue, an individual had, I think, around 60 broiler chickens and people in the area hardly knew it,” Zwicker said, noting it should be acceptable to allow people to raise a few chickens.
“Marijuana became legal in October and not everybody ran out and started smoking dope. Everybody’s got the ability to do it but not everybody is going to,” said Zwicker. “I don’t think much will change at all if this amendment is passed.”
Coun. Rupert Jannasch, who is a farmer, was supportive of allowing livestock to be raised in Hantsport but was concerned with the definitions of animal units differing between regions.
“I would suggest that for the sake of our municipality, we have one definition of an animal unit and not every community come up with their own definition because that’s only going to create confusion,” said Jannasch. “It’s a meaningless term if every community can decide on their own what they want an animal unit to mean.”
After considerable discussion, and noting that the animal units terminology can be adjusted in the future, council agreed to the amendments. Voting in favour were Jennifer Daniels, Jannasch, David Keith, Tanya Leopold, and Zwicker; opposed were Hussey, Debbie Francis, Monroe and Paul Morton. Missing from the vote was Warden Abraham Zebian.
Clerk Rhonda Brown said in an email on March 5 that the amendments have yet to be forwarded on to the provincial government for final approval as staff requires clarification. It’s anticipated council will revisit this topic on March 12 to answer staff’s questions.
Did you know?
- Wolfville’s land use bylaw notes that “no lot in any residential zone or designation shall be used for the rearing or keeping of farm animals except for a maximum of four laying hens contained within the lot.”
Under that bylaw, farm animal means horses, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, fowl, mink or fox.
- The Town of Windsor allows property owners to own four laying hens (no roosters) and, depending on property size, a beehive. Potential beekeepers will need at least 5,000 square feet.
- West Hants' bylaw has not been updated to reflect the livestock amendments as it hasn’t been formally approved. However, residents can read the staff reports on the issue here.
- Windsor passes bylaw allowing laying hens and beehives.