A simple desire to keep a few chickens in one man’s backyard in Liverpool , N.S., has ruffled the feathers of a lot of people in this picturesque community.
It all began when Edward Whynot tried to raise a few chickens on his property last summer, but he had to get rid of them after a complaint from a neighbour was relayed to him by the municipality.
He tried keeping chickens again this April when he had the opportunity to get seven young hens. And since then he has been dealing with bylaw officials, meetings with politicians, planning committee meetings and full sessions of council.
“They supply food for me and the region is actually taking food off my table by taking these hens from me,” Whynot told Yahoo Canada News on Wednesday.
“This is my lifestyle, They’re my pets — just like a dog or cat would be for anybody else,” he said, after spending most of the day picketing with a large sign by Liverpool’s main intersection.
“I think it’s a shame and I told the councillors yesterday that they should walk around town with paper bags pulled down over their heads. In my opinion, I think they owe me an apology.”
“I think they have such a hate on for me that they’ll never allow me to have chickens, in my opinion.”
Even Mayor Christopher Clarke voted against Whynot’s plan. He is sympathetic to Whynot’s plight but he told Yahoo Canada News the issue is whether the people lose control over what goes on in their community.
“It’s an incredibly distasteful position to be in,” he said.
The Region of Queens County hotly debated the chicken issue at its Tuesday council meeting.
But Clarke said despite a split vote, Whynot has been given a chance to ask for an exemption to the bylaw as long as he pays $700 to cover the costs of advertising that is required to give the public notice of a special hearing.
“What council said, if you don’t apply within 30 days, those chickens will be removed and the bylaw will be enforced. We have not said – but it’s inferred – if you go through the procedure, then as we continue through that process, those chickens can stay until the process reaches resolution.”
When told about the mayor’s comments, Whynot said: “I don’t really trust them. They never told me that. My understanding was I had to get rid of the chickens first and then apply.”
The hen debate rages in other communities across Canada, including Toronto, which long ago banned backyard chickens. However, that hasn’t stopped Stoddart Family Farm in Kawartha Lakes to roll out its Rent The Chicken program, who says those regulations are mostly enforced “on a complaint basis.”
Back in April, Calgary council voted down a proposed year-long pilot project in which egg-laying hens would be allowed in 20 of the city’s neighbourhoods. However, other cities, including Victoria, Vancouver and Guelph all have legislation allowing for legal backyard hens.
The issue found a more sympathetic resolution in one major U.S city this week, as Pittsburgh passed an ordinance, so residents who live on lots of at least 180 square metres can now get permits for up to five chickens or ducks, or two dehorned miniature goats.
Residents on larger lots may qualify to keep additional chickens or ducks, and those with more than 1,350 square metres can keep at least one extra goat, plus one more for each additional 450 square metres they own.
Locals in Whynot’s community seem to be largely supportive of him in news reports and on social media.
“If the smell does not bother the people who live near him, I don’t see a problem at all. If he keeps the cage clean, let him have them and get his eggs, resident Catherine Howard wrote on Facebook.
For Jason Muise, the issue is personal rights and freedoms.
“You can go topless in public in more and more places and that’s upholding women’s rights. Gay people can get married in more and more places so what in the name Moses is wrong with a man having a few chickens?” Muise wrote.
“Has society become so bored, that we need to complain and cry about such things. Soon a man won’t be able to fart in public because it offends someone.”
Jennifer Spencer said it’s important to put the issue in perspective.
“I fully support Mr. Whynot in his battle to keep his chickens. He is leading a healthier lifestyle by keeping them, and the town should be encouraging its residents to do so for the health of the whole community. Unless of course you want to raise a whole other generation of youth not connected with their food, then of course Town of Liverpool, proceed as you are.”
Follow Glenn Johnson @Glenn_A_Johnson