Urban chickens: Winnipeg animal welfare advocates slam pilot project

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Animal welfare advocates pleaded Monday with committee members to reject a two-year pilot project allowing urban chicken farming in Winnipeg.

A report to the city’s Welfare and Community Services Committee says the trial would be open to 20 sites, with a maximum of four hens and no roosters per location. Chicken coops would need to be insulated and properties would require a secure fenced yard. Pilot participants would be subject to unannounced inspections and permit fees.

Patricia Sawicki buys eggs from a farmer and resells them at cost to people in her community.

“The price I pay is the price I sell them at just to get people to eat free-range eggs,” Sawicki said.

The Transcona-area resident would like to raise her own chickens in her backyard to produce eggs.

“I would like to know where my food comes from, what my animals are fed,” Sawicki said.

As part of proposed changes to municipal pet bylaws, the Winnipeg Animal Services Agency is recommending a two-year pilot project allowing urban chickens to be raised starting in the spring of 2023.

“I’ve waited a long time for this to happen and so has my family,” Sawicki said.

Animal welfare advocates pleaded with committee members on Monday to reject the pilot.

Brittany Semeniuk of the Winnipeg Humane Society told advisers that bird flu is a current concern, already discovered in backyard flocks in Canada. She also said that once the hens can no longer lay eggs, there are fears that the chickens will be discarded or slaughtered.

“This initiative leaves far too much room for error for the big red flags of well-being to become apparent,” Semeniuk said.

Animal Justice staff attorney Kaitlyn Mitchell says too many city resources would be needed to control the program.

“Addressing the inevitable noise, odor, pest and animal welfare complaints that will inevitably accompany it,” Mitchell said.

Sawicki believes the proposed regulations and the cost of coops and feed required to achieve them will ensure the chickens are cared for and managed properly.

“It’s not cheap, people aren’t just going to invest all that money trying to fail,” Sawicki said.

The city council has the final say on pet regulations.

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