Residents in some Toronto neighbourhoods will be allowed to keep chickens in their backyards under a pilot project approved Tuesday by city council.
The pilot will run in four city wards over the next three years with an interim review in 18 months. Residents can keep up to four chickens — no roosters are permitted — and must register with the city.
Coun. Justin Di Ciano, who brought the pilot to council, said the project will give city residents an alternative to store-bought eggs.
"I look at the facts," he said. "I've talked to many people in other jurisdictions ... about all the negative aspects, the noise, the smell, the predators. None of it shows up in these other municipalities' radar."
Chickens would not be allowed in apartment buildings, condominiums or properties without sufficient outdoor space. Under the system, chickens must remain within a resident's yard and any eggs produced are for personal consumption and can't be sold.
Several municipalities in Ontario, including Kingston, Brampton, Niagara Falls and Caledon, all allow residents to keep chickens in backyard coops.
Di Ciano said that in Niagara Falls, where backyard chickens have been permitted for 20 years, there were 10 complaints to the city about the animals in 2016. In that same time period, there were 500 noise complaints about dogs, he said.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of residents with chickens already in the city of Toronto," Di Ciano said. "We're not getting a lot of complaints ... I don't think there's going to be a lot of problems with this."
Opponents of the pilot have argued it will generate complaints and tie up the city's bylaw enforcement officers. Coun. Anthony Perruzza predicted the pilot will drive up complaints to councillors.
"They're smelly," he said. "One of the biggest bylaw issues we have, that drives people crazy, is things that attract rodents ... these will."
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti urged his colleagues to reject the pilot, saying suburban residents don't support it.
"Madam Speaker, what the flock is going on at City Hall?" he asked. "I for one, stand up and ask the question because I just cannot believe what I'm hearing and seeing ... I cannot believe we're not talking about more substantial issues."