Chickens can be a wonderful addition to your backyard, providing fresh eggs, fertilizer for the garden, and an educational experience for people of all ages. As cities move toward more sustainable practices in food security and urban agriculture, small flocks of chickens are cropping up in backyards across North America.
Backyard chicken keeping isn't a new concept—it just went away for awhile. Chickens actually used to be permitted in cities (and still are in parts that are designated rural), but over time as cities evolved, agriculture was gradually phased out from urban areas.
The Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy is presently leading a community consultation process on backyard chicken policies to inform land use planning in Thunder Bay. Under current municipal by-laws, chickens are not allowed in most areas of the City of Thunder Bay unless the land is zoned rural. The consultation process is intended to serve as guidance for a proposed by-law change to permit urban chicken keeping. If you're thinking about keeping chickens, it’s important to understand these by-laws before moving forward.
Over the years there has been a significant amount of public interest in having this issue looked at locally. We receive a lot of questions and calls from people wanting to know if chickens will be legalized in the future, and several citizen groups have emerged around the theme of chickens. For this reason, the Food Strategy document and the Food Strategy's 2015 Implementation Plan both state that the Food Strategy will work towards developing policy that is supportive of urban agriculture practices, including key priority projects like backyard chickens.
So far a research project has been carried out that looks at current by-laws from other jurisdictions in Ontario and across North America that have legalized chickens. A working group has started to meet to look at ways of advancing this issue locally.
The Food Strategy is seeking public input on keeping chickens in urban areas of the City of Thunder Bay, and a public open house is scheduled for this Spring (stay tuned for details!). The ultimate goal is to bring these recommendations to Thunder Bay City Council, which officially endorsed the Food Strategy in 2014 along with six other surrounding municipalities.
Want to get involved? Take our survey and submit your email address at the end. But first, take some time to explore our page, including Frequently Asked Questions and a gallery of existing coops in Thunder Bay.