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No yolk: Waverley man told his chickens need to find a new coop (update)

A compliance officer came to Steven Pick's house and said the municipality had received a complaint about his five hens
(stock photo)

As municipal staff look into the possibility of allowing egg-laying chickens in all residential areas, one Waverley family is being told to get rid of their hens.

Steven Pick says a compliance officer recently came to his house after the municipality received a complaint about the animals.

The notice to comply sent to the Picks states the zoning of his property "does not permit agricultural uses, including livestock (chickens included) and their accessory buildings."

They have been ordered to get rid of their chickens and the coop by Aug. 23.

The Picks have had their five chickens for a while, purchasing them shortly after his wife became sick.

Pick's wife now has limited mobility and he says the hens have essentially become members of the family.

"When my wife goes out and calls the chickens -- the girls as she calls them, they all have names -- you don't want to be standing between the chickens and her when they're called because they'll knock you right down," he told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show. "They come up and they sit with her on the deck."

"She gets to walk to the chicken coop four or five times a day, that's the only walking she can really do, she gets the fresh eggs and she doesn't get out of the house much. It brightens her mood daily without getting a lot of face-to-face contact with other people."

Pick says he has two acres of land. Once a day the hens are let out of the coop and they mostly stick to their backyard.

"I can't even begin to imagine who or why somebody would complain about them," he said. 

"I just don't understand it, there's no rhyme or reason to it. They cause nobody any harm. They bring my wife joy, they bring me joy."

Earlier this year, councillor David Hensbee presented a motion at council to request a staff report on allowing all residents of Halifax Regional Municipality to have egg-laying chickens for personal use. The motion passed 15-1.

At this point, whether or not someone is allowed to have chickens depends on where they live in the municipality.

A spokesperson for Halifax Regional Municipality, Erin DiCarlo, told there are currently 21 land use bylaws in HRM, some allow chickens and some don't.

"It just illustrates the ambiguity of a lot of the bylaws that, not only council and members of council have to respond to the public on, but indeed our staff have to act upon," said Pick's councillor Steve Streatch.

Streatch represents Waverley, Fall River and Musquodoboit Valley. 

"The zoning obviously where the Picks live is not agricultural," he explained. "If in fact they lived in Musquodoboit Valley or out in the country, this would be a non-issue."

Streatch said most chicken-related complaints involve roosters waking up neighbours at dawn. None of the Picks chicks are roosters and Streatch doesn't know to details of this specific complaint.

"It was my understanding that possibly they had wandered off of the property and maybe onto the sidewalk, so obviously one of the neighbours or someone in the area took issue with that."

He added, if a complaint is received and a bylaw is being broken, compliance officers have no choice but to act.

DiCarlo said in situations where an animal needs to be relocated due to a bylaw issue, residents are given a month to find a new home.

If the Pick's don't find a new place for their pets, she said the matter would be treated just like any other order that is ignored.

"We would bring charges before the courts."

Pick doesn't want to break the law, but says he wants the opportunity to plead his case to someone.

Staff are currently working on the backyard chicken report requested by council, and DiCarlo said they're expecting the results sometime this fall.

"Amendments to multiple land-use by-laws would be needed to establish a consistent approach across the region," said in an emailed statement. "A recommended approach and associated timelines will be outlined in the forthcoming report."


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for
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