April 26

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Raising Backyard Chickens in Northumberland County? Here’s What You Need to Know

With Les Lamb

April 26, 2024


If you’re hatching a plot to keep chickens in your backyard, or to buy a property where you can, you’re not alone. Backyard chicken keeping is on the rise, thanks to renewed interest and zoning by-law changes. Before you begin, it’s important to understand local regulations and by-laws. These regulations are set at the municipal level, and they can vary widely. In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the current backyard chicken by-laws of each municipality in Northumberland County, Ontario.

Understanding Backyard Chicken By-laws

“Backyard chicken” by-laws regulate the keeping of chickens on properties that would not otherwise meet the criteria for keeping farm animals or livestock. Sustainable living, food security, health benefits and a connection to nature are among the list of benefits cited by backyard chicken keepers and those aspiring to join them.

Municipalities regulate where chickens can be kept, due to concerns about disease transmission, odours, noise from roosters, trespassing chickens, and the attraction of predators and of rats who like their food. Additionally, it’s been claimed that unlike larger agricultural operations, most backyard chicken owners fail to follow proper biosecurity practices, like those related to manure management.

For these reasons, many municipalities, such as all those in Durham Region, still restrict chicken keeping to agricultural and some rural properties, provided they meet certain other criteria. These additional criteria include minimum lot sizes, chicken coop setbacks, provincial Minimum Distance Separation (MDS II) guidelines, and various other regulations.

Even though by-law enforcement is typically initiated only by complaints, it’s still important to know what to egg-spect before you begin. Penalties for non-compliance can range from having your chickens removed from the property, to expensive fines. In Northumberland’s Township of Cramahe, it’s $5,000 for your first offence. That’s enough to make a chicken out of anyone.

Overview of Backyard Chicken By-laws in Northumberland County, Ontario

Currently, the keeping of backyard chickens is NOT allowed in the municipalities of Port Hope, Cobourg, and Hamilton Township. Though no decisions have been made, Hamilton Township’s Senior Planner, Jennifer Current, confirmed in an email on March 25, 2024 that they are discussing the idea. That means that at the time of writing, Alnwick/Haldimand, Cramahe, Brighton and Trent Hills are the only municipalities in Northumberland County that are “backyard chicken friendly.” Here’s a brief summary of the regulations for each one:

map of areas of Northumberland County Ontario that allow backyard chickens
The areas outlined in green are considered “backyard chicken friendly”

Alnwick/Haldimand

Alnwick/Haldimand’s backyard hen by-law:

  • Up to 6 hens allowed. No roosters
  • Only on properties zoned to permit a single detached dwelling
  • Lot size must be 1 acre (0.4 hectares) or larger

Additionally, they must kept in a chicken coop that is:

  • 3m or more from the side lot line
  • 1.2m or more from the rear lot line
  • 7.5m or more from any church or school
  • No larger than 3m x 3m, and 4.5m in height, with a roof
  • Located only in the rear yard

Alnwick/Haldimand backyard hen by-law (See pg. 64)

Cramahe

Cramahe’s backyard hen by-law:

  • Up to 6 hens allowed on land not zoned for agricultural use. No roosters
  • No slaughtering on the property
  • No selling of eggs or chicken products unless the property’s regular zoning allows it

Additional regulations regarding the chicken coop:

  • Must be 3m x 3m and 3.5m high, or smaller
  • Must be kept clean and sanitary, free of vermin, obnoxious smells and substances
  • Provide constant access to feed and clean water, stored in solid containers
  • Hens must be kept securely in the coop at all times
  • Hens must be treated humanely, and kept in a clean, healthy condition, free from vermin and disease
  • Stored manure must be kept in a fully enclosed structure 3 cubic ft or smaller
  • Deceased hens must be disposed of promptly, in a sanitary manner
  • The chicken keeper must reside on the property

Must pay a fee to apply for a Licence to Keep a Hen

  • Landlord must approve if you’re a tenant
  • Property’s current/proposed use must comply with zoning by-laws before applying
  • Property must comply with the Township’s Property Standards by-laws
  • Subject to periodic inspection by authorities
  • Max $5,000 fine for non-compliance (1st offence), $10,000 fine (2nd offence)

Cramahe backyard hen by-law

Brighton

Brighton’s backyard hen by-law:

  • Up to 6 hens, no roosters
  • For egg consumption only. No selling of eggs allowed
  • Limited to lots zoned RR, R1, R2, R3, HR, SHR, or lots with a legal non-conforming dwelling unit
  • Overruled by developer’s covenants, if applicable
  • Only allowed as long as the residence remains the property’s primary use

Additional regulations regarding the chicken coop:

  • Chickens must be kept in the coop
  • Must be in rear yard
  • Must be 9 sq m or smaller, and 3m away from neighbouring windows or doors
  • A hen run shall be 30 sq m or smaller
  • Coops and hen runs must be 3m or shorter
  • One fully enclosed waterproof container for manure storage is required, not storing more than 0.08 cubic m or 2.8 cubic ft
  • Must meet same side and rear setbacks as the property’s zoning requirements for the home
  • On legal non-conforming lots, setbacks of the RR zone in rural areas shall apply, setbacks of the R1 Zone in urban areas shall apply, and setbacks of the HR Zone shall apply in hamlet areas
  • Slaughtering and disposal of deceased hens are prohibited

Brighton backyard hen by-law

Trent Hills

Trent Hills’ backyard hen by-law:

  • Up to 6 hens, no roosters
  • Only on lots zoned Rural Residential, Special Rural Residential, Shoreline Residential
  • Lot must be at least 1 acre (0.4 hectares) in size

Regarding the chicken coop:

  • Fenced enclosure
  • Not in the front yard
  • 7.5m from rear and side lot lines

Additionally, a licence is required, and you must reapply annually.

Trent Hills backyard hen by-law

Common Themes and Differences

Every municipality in Northumberland County that allows backyard chickens limits them to a maximum of 6 hens, while roosters are forbidden. Each municipality also requires the hens to be contained in an enclosure, which can’t be in the front yard, and must be located within certain setbacks from lot lines.

There are also differences. Permitted zoning, setbacks, chicken enclosure dimensions, manure storage, and what the chickens are used for, all vary by municipality. Some require an application and licence to keep backyard chickens, and some by-laws are less detailed than others, providing more flexibility.

Resources for Further Information

Before you start keeping chickens on your property, remember that this article is not legal advice. You must do your own diligence and check with your local municipality that the information in this article is current, accurate and complete. You should also ask them if there are other things not mentioned here that could affect your intended use of the land.

How to Reach Your Local Municipality in Northumberland County

For more information about backyard chicken by-laws, you’ll want to talk to the planning department for your municipality. You may also wish to speak to the by-law enforcement department. Here is how you can reach them:

(RED text = backyard hens are NOT allowed)

  • Port Hope: 905-885-4544 (porthope.ca)
  • Cobourg: 905-372-4301 (cobourg.ca)
  • Hamilton Township: 905-342-2810 (hamiltontownship.ca)
  • Alnwick/Haldimand: 905-349-2822 (ahtwp.ca)
  • Cramahe: 905-355-2821 (cramahe.ca)
  • Brighton: 613-475-1162 (brighton.ca)
  • Trent Hills: 705-653-1900 (trenthills.ca)

Support and Information for Backyard Chicken Keeping

  • Backyard Poultry Magazine – Backyard Poultry is an essential guide for a diverse community of poultry lovers, accessible to those who live on a farm, in a suburban neighbourhood, or are raising poultry in an urban environment.
  • BackyardChickens.com – Features forums, articles, reviews and more.
  • Poultry Industry Council – Supports the poultry industry as a whole, and provides education and information, such as its, “Raising Backyard Chickens” webinar.

In conclusion, understanding and adhering to backyard chicken by-laws is crucial for a smooth chicken-keeping experience. Before starting your flock, research local regulations to ensure compliance and prevent conflicts. Consider practical aspects like coop construction and manure management. Responsible chicken-keeping benefits individuals and communities, promoting sustainability and fostering neighbourhood camaraderie. So, prioritize knowledge and compliance for a successful experience keeping backyard chickens.

Do you have experience raising backyard chickens, or in navigating the backyard chicken by-laws in your community? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

 

Les Lamb

About Les

I'm your hard-working, full-time REALTOR©, serving in and around Durham Region, Ontario. I specialize in client care and communications. My client-centered approach puts you first and takes the stress out of your home buying and selling experience. How can I help you?

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