Urban Agriculture Kingston

Promoting food sustainability in an urban centre

Preliminary Report to City Council

The following report was prepared by UAK and distributed to Mayor and Council on January 26, 2009. The final report will be up by next weekend (March 27th 2010).  It is available for download using the link below.

http://uakingston.webs.com/UAK Backyard Hen Campaign Preliminary Report.docx

Dear Mayor Rosen and Council members,

Urban Agriculture Kingston is initiating a discussion in our City on the merits of allowing egg-producing hens into backyards. Some of you may have already received a phone call from a constituent to discuss the issues. We would like to share both our action plan, as well as some of our current findings.

We launched the campaign on June 8th, 2009, with a talk by Jon Steinman on backyard hens, at the Kingston Public Library, with about 75 people in attendance. On November 19, 2009, over 100 attended the public screening of a film, Mad City Chickens, which was followed by a speaker from Ottawa, and a moderated discussion. UAK is planning three more public events for early 2010. We will personally invite you to them once we establish dates.

Allowing urban hens would support Kingston’s goal to become Canada’s most sustainable city by providing an affordable, healthy source of local, organic food in one’s own backyard, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste. Dozens of leading North American municipalities, including Guelph, Brampton, Niagara Falls, Victoria, Vancouver, and Burnaby allow backyard hens. In all cases, the rule-changes have resulted in very few, and sometimes zero, bylaw complaints. The KFLA Board of health produced a report in June 2009, and assessed backyard hens to pose no health concerns.

Please consider the following preliminary report, and contact me if you would like further discussion, or if you have some questions that you think we might answer for you in our ongoing research with other municipalities. This report text is found within the email below, and also in the attached word document. There is a resource list towards the end.


Mike Payne

Urban Agriculture Kingston




Urban Agriculture Kingston’s “Backyard Hen” Action Plan


Urban Agriculture Kingston (UAK) is a not-for-profit working group of OPIRG Kingston that promotes sustainable food production for all people in the Greater Kingston area, by advocating policy changes in governments and institutions that will support increased food sovereignty across the region.

As part of its mission to enhance food security and healthful food consumption among local residents, UAK has initiated the Kingston Backyard Hens campaign, and is supported by the Community Urban Sustainability Project, OPIRG Kingston, and the Living Cities Company.  Kingston Backyard Hens comprises a diverse group of area residents dedicated to awareness, advocacy, and education concerning urban chickens within the City of Kingston.  Supporters believe that responsible urban chicken ownership is a vital part of sustainable urban agriculture and can provide Kingston residents with greater control over their food sources.


The main objective of the Kingston Backyard Hen campaign is to amend local bylaw to allow residents to keep a small number of backyard hens (and no rosters) within the urban area.

UAK intends to consult with a wide range of stakeholders, including City Council, the Public Health Unit, the Kingston Humane Society, local veterinarians, local urban agriculture researchers, other municipalities, and the general public.

The aim of these consultations will be to prepare draft guidelines for the keeping of hens and to develop recommendations that will allow Kingston City Council to consider revising the various bylaws that currently prohibit backyard hens within the municipality.

Benefits of Backyard Hens 

Chickens have existed in cities since the dawn of time, and they continue to thrive in communities around the world, both large and small, with dozens of cities across North America revising bylaws to allow them once again.  The benefits of raising hens include:

·         The production of affordable fresh, healthy and delicious home-grown eggs, free of pesticides and antibiotics;

·         The reduction of municipal solid waste through the consumption of table scraps and other organic waste by chickens;

·         The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from food distribution

·         The production of rich garden fertilizer via chicken waste by-products, which is high in nitrogen, eliminating the need for petrochemical fertilizers;

·         The reduction of backyard pest populations, through the consumption of bugs by backyard chickens;

·         Educational opportunities – backyard chickens teach children where our food comes from and provide valuable opportunities for the demonstration of responsible pet ownership;

·         The addition of great pets to neighbourhood families – chickens make great pets, as their behaviour is interesting and entertaining, They are people-friendly, quiet, and unaggressive.


In the decades following World War II, suburbanites seeded their lots with grass, installed lawn sprinklers, applied chemicals to their yards liberally, and passed bylaws prohibiting livestock both great and small – including chickens – in urban and suburban backyards. 

In recent years, many of us have begun  to realize that maintaining a close connection to our food is a positive, rather than a negative choice, and is an important part of living a more agriculturally and ecologically sustainable lifestyle.  Farmers markets (including the weekly market in downtown Kingston) have since experienced a massive revival, people are gardening more, and communities around the nation are changing decades-old laws forbidding the keeping of chickens.

Many major cities across North America, including Vancouver, Victoria, New York, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles have already allowed the small-scale raising of chickens in a wide range of urban settings. Now it is Kingston’s turn to join this positive and growing trend. We can follow the example of comparable Canadian examples such as Niagara Falls, Brampton, Nelson, Victoria, Esquimault, and Saanich:

Niagara Falls, ON (pop 86,000)

·         Changed its bylaws in 2005, to allow up to 10 hens. Bill Matson, manager of clerks for the City of Niagara Falls says, "we've had no problems and this bylaw seems to be serving the community very well."


Esquimault, BC, (pop 18,000)

·         Changed its bylaws in 2008, allows 4 hens, and has not had a single complaint.


Saanich, BC, (pop 108,000)

·         Voted in October 2009 to proceed with a bylaw amendment permitting an unspecified number of  backyard hens. The motion passed unanimously.


Victoria, BC, (pop 312,000)

·         Has always permitted backyard hens, has no limit on number, and reports an average of only 12 complaints a year.


Brampton, ON, (433,000)

·         Has always permitted backyard hens, and allows 2 maximum.


Guelph, ON, (pop 114,000)

·         Has always permitted backyard hens. Bylaws were passed in 1985 to prohibit standing water in pens and to establish set-backs.


Vancouver, BC (611,000)

·         In March 2009, Council instructed Staff to develop a policy to allow backyard hens.


Kingston ON (pop 117,000)

·         Will hopefully consider revising the bylaws in its quest to be a leader in sustainability: 2004-144 (4.13) Livestock or poultry is only permitted on property belonging to veterinary clinics or events for recreational/educational purposes (Therefore, residents cannot raise chickens or harvest bees on personal property); 76-26 (Section 9) No building or structure which is used to house animals or fowl and no manure storage area shall be located within: (i) 200 feet of any Residential Zone; or (ii) 100 feet of any street line.


In general, where municipalities permit hens:

·         A small number of laying hens (4-10) is allowed;

·         Roosters and home-slaughter are NOT allowed;

·         The same noise, smell, nuisance, and animal-cruelty rules that apply to dogs, cats, and birds, will apply to the hens.

·         A permitting system is not utilized – bylaw compliance is enforced through bylaw complaints when necessary


Project Plan

In the coming months, we intend to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Prepare, distribute, retrieve and tabulate pro-backyard chicken petitions throughout the Greater Kingston area;
  • Ask the following questions of Canadian municipalities which allow hens:

a.       Has there been any increase in predator populations/sightings/incidents?

b.       What was the rationale to pursue/not pursue a formal permitting system?

c.        What is the general nature of most complaints, and how many complaints are received annually?

d.       What is the general uptake in hen-raising on a per-capita or per-household basis?

  • Encourage and organize Kingston residents in each municipal district (ward) to contact the mayor and their district councilors to discuss the backyard hen proposal,;
  • Contact the City of Kingston Planning Department and bylaw enforcement officials to gauge their opinions, questions and potential concerns regarding UAK’s backyard hens proposal;
  • Draft a comprehensive document that lays out in detail the case for city chickens.  This document will include the following information:

·         A short argument of backyard hens;

·         A detailed summary of which Kingston bylaws relate to backyard hens;

·         Examples of implemented bylaw changes from other municipalities;

·         Past municipal precedents (other pro-chicken cities and their experiences, as well as information regarding which cities have rejected proposed backyard chicken plans,  and why);

·         Details on KFLA Health Unit board’s urban chicken opinion of June 25, 2009

·         Petitions and support of such to date;

·         Proposed council motions that could be used to modify existing bylaws to allow for small-scale chicken raising;

  • Conceive, plan and execute a minimum of three chicken-related public events in late fall, 2009, and winter/spring 2010.


Hyperlinks to Further Reading

     Article on the state of city chickens in Canada

     Backyard hens in Niagara

     EMC article - UAK's hen campaign in Kingston

     A list of HUNDREDS of municipalities that permit backyard hens (mostly American)