Interrupting several times to suggest the report was one sided, Councillor Don Mitchell was not pleased with a presentation from City of Moose Jaw bylaw enforcement officers Monday night.  Ted Swenson was delivering a report that he had been working months on after studying the impact of allowing chickens inside city limits, something that is currently prohibited.

The South Central Food Network asked for a review after a recent push across the country to supply more foods locally. There has also been growing interest in having urban coops and Mitchell argued that since they had initiated the call for the report, the group should have a chance to make a presentation and respond to Swenson's study.  The group was unable to attend but Swenson was allowed to continue with his presentation and council would allow the group to attend a future meeting.

Mitchell's concerns aside, Swenson outlined his various findings for councillors saying there are a number of issues that he has if the city was to consider allowing chickens in backyards.  At the forefront, is the fact that the federal and provincial governments have a very long list of requirements that will need to be enforced, work that would likely fall onto the city's desk.

"Keeping of urban chickens ends up involving a serious amount of time to administer and enforce." said Swenson. "You have to have somebody trained, you have to comply with all of the various guidelines that there are."

Swenson believes those who are pressing for the changes, might not understand all of the federal and provincial regulations that are attached, especially with the concerns around avian flu and even biohazard regulations when it comes to manure.

He says there are enough rules to make your head spin. "It's mandatory that anyone with birds, including a private coop in your yard, be registered with the province and that's so that if there is some sort of a disease outbreak, regarding birds, they can immediately identify who has the birds in an area."

Swenson also raised concerns with the lack of a support system in place for keeping chickens, such as what happens after a chicken is too old to lay eggs? He says there are regulations for euthanizing or butchering chickens and currently there are no approved processors in the city right now.  The local Humane Society is also not prepared to handle chickens if a situation arises with health and safety of the birds or the abandonment of a coop.

There are also concerns with enforcing proper coop construction according to Swenson who says there are guidelines that must be followed because of our climate.  He said it's not a matter of tossing together some chicken wire and giving them a roof over their heads, there must be individual areas, heating and room to roam.

The report to council suggested that the city would need a half full time equivalent position to handle the applications and enforce all of the regulations, but they currently only have two staff who handle all of the other bylaws in the city. If funding and training were provided, Swenson says keeping urban chickens wouldn't be an issue, as long as the support network for health and safe handling of birds was also established.

In his research, Swenson also learned that no other city in the province, that he could find, has changed their bylaw to allow urban chickens.  Adding that Saskatoon has now rejected a bid to make the change four times, most recently in April of this year. In contrast, the city of Toronto just started work on a pilot project this week that could allow residents to raise chickens. The change was in response to a survey conducted by the city that seemed to receive solid support. Unlike Saskatchewan, there are a handful of Ontario cities that allow chickens to be kept.

No action has been taken at this point as members of the South Central Food Network were not able to be at the meeting. It will be discussed again in the future to hear why they think allowing chickens inside Moose Jaw would be beneficial.