Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Windsor could learn from Springfield

After Springfield, Missouri, legalized urban chickens in 2010, residents haven't so far been flocking out en masse to acquire a backyard brood of their own.  Some are expecting to wait until the spring to get started, but quite possibly this will remain a passion for a small percentage of the population (much like pigeon ownership, which is allowed in Windsor, to the tune of 80 birds per resident).

To put things in perspective, Springfield itself is a city  about 3/4 the size of Windsor, though the wider metropolitan area is roughly equivalent in population to Essex County.

The only number the city keeps tabs on are complaints the city receives about people who have too many chickens, people who keep roosters or people who don't follow city guidelines on coop construction.

Since the new rules went into effect in October, the city has received 11 complaints.  That number is small compared to complaints filed about dogs and cats.

Not requiring people to tell the city they are keeping chickens might prevent keeping tabs on the number of fowl in the city, but it means city employees have to do less work keeping tabs on chickens, he said

What can we learn from this?

Well, for a start, we know this is an important issue to many people (for example, CLUCK Windsor has 220 members as of today), so the first thing to realize is that ignoring it is not a good idea.

Secondly, despite wild claims to the contrary, the vast majority of people who would like to raise hens are responsible people.  They don't mind waiting and doing it properly.

Thirdly, in spite of all the media hype the matter has received since it came before Council, it needs to be kept in proportion.  A working group does not have to be large, convoluted and costly.  Its work can be done efficiently by learning as much as possible from other cities that have already gone through the process.  We don't have to reinvent the wheel.  And there are a number of volunteers who have already come forward to help with the process.

Lastly, a sensible way to change the bylaw to allow backyard hens is to lay down few administrative requirements.  For example, requiring each coop to be inspected by a city official adds bureaucratic costs that aren't in taxpayers' interests.  It doesn't make sense either, since cats' and dogs' living quarters don't have to be inspected as a requirement of ownership.

If the question of backyard hens is approached sensibly, it doesn't have to be a costly process, either for the working group that was recommended by the city's Licencing Commission, or afterwards.

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Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.