Should you be able to raise chickens on a rural Huntsville lot that’s less than one acre?
Riley Ball thinks so. Riley, 10, converted a play house on the family’s property on Old Muskoka Road with the help of his older brother and dad into a chicken coop. He’s been looking after his 15 hens for the past two years and providing his family and friends with fresh eggs. But all that may be coming to an end. Huntsville’s bylaw allows rural residents to have up to five chickens per acre. The Balls have about three-quarters of an acre and 15 chickens, which means they are in contravention of a bylaw they say is outdated.
They also say that because Huntsville’s bylaw enforcement is complaint-driven, and one of the neighbours complained, despite the fact that other neighbours have since come forward in support of the family the Town’s bylaw department is asking them to get rid of their chickens.
Riley’s mom Tanya says she knows who complained because another neighbour shared that information with her. “The complaint was she said that they were coming into her yard,” said Tanya. In terms of the smell, “the only thing we can think of was last year when it was wet and rainy. We have a lot of clay in our ground and it smelled mucky, everywhere smelled mucky. Other than that, we don’t know. She’s the only one complaining.”
The Balls have since put up fencing and started circulating a petition. That petition now contains more than 240 signatures in favour of allowing the family to continue having chickens on their property. It also calls on the municipality to revisit its lot size restrictions as it pertains to having chickens. Several of their neighbours on Old Muskoka Road have signed the petition and some have gone as far as penning a letter to the Town in support of the family.
In the meantime, the Balls have received a court summons initiated by the Town’s bylaw department for not complying with the bylaw. They’re scheduled in court on December 5. But before that they will present their case to the Town’s Planning Committee on Wednesday, October 10 asking for the bylaw to be changed.
“They bylaw is outdated and it needs to be changed. People in Brampton and people in Toronto, Vancouver… all these places are entitled to have chickens. We are in rural residential Utterson and they’re telling us we cannot have chickens when we’re surrounded by farmland,” argued Tanya. She said there are many other residents who have chickens in the Town of Huntsville and many live on less than an acre of land. She said they’ve been fortunate so far because no one has complained.
“We’ve had a lot of people come to us and say ‘we’re behind you 100 per cent,’ but some of them are afraid to say something because they don’t want to lose their chickens,” she added.
“We keep them good and clean with no smell and let them out every morning and put them to bed at night,” added Riley. “We only have five that are free range but we don’t let them leave our yard.”
From the family’s living room window you can see goats and chickens that belong to another neighbour and the Balls say they feel as though they are being singled out.
“On October 17 you’ll be allowed to grow four pot plants in your house, but we live out in the country on three-quarters of an acre and we can’t have chickens? It just doesn’t make sense,” says Riley’s dad, Darcy.
He said the issue was brought up in 2013. “The Mayor at that time, Claude Doughty, said it should be revisited.”
He argued that his son is being taught in school about sustainable living. “So they’re telling them one thing and then the Town is saying you can’t do that… we keep it tidy, the chickens have good living quarters, they’re heated in the winter time once it gets cold—we get eggs year-round,” he said, adding that the family does not have roosters, just hens because roosters can be noisy and they’re mindful of their neighbours.
You can find the online petition here.
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