Backyard Chickens

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Two hens on the grass in a yard beside a walkway leading to a covered porch.

A group of residents interested in backyard chickens recently made a presentation to Council, asking for consideration to keep backyard chickens in the City of Waterloo. Council has asked staff to look into the feasibility of backyard/urban chickens and get a wider opinion from the general public on this topic.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey and share your thoughts with us. Staff are working to review the survey data, researching best practices, and will make an eventual report to Council. Once more information on this project, including a timeline for that council report, is available, it will all be shared on this project page.

A group of residents interested in backyard chickens recently made a presentation to Council, asking for consideration to keep backyard chickens in the City of Waterloo. Council has asked staff to look into the feasibility of backyard/urban chickens and get a wider opinion from the general public on this topic.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey and share your thoughts with us. Staff are working to review the survey data, researching best practices, and will make an eventual report to Council. Once more information on this project, including a timeline for that council report, is available, it will all be shared on this project page.


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about backyard chickens? Additional comments are always welcome.

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First off..look next door to our sister city..Their bylaw that lets people keep chickens is wildly successful. Chickens do not smell if cleaned regularly and people that keep chickens within our sister city follow the rules. Rodents can be controlled by keeping the coops clean and removing the food at night. 4 chickens take very little space and are not noisy at all because roosters aren't allowed.....again, Look at our neighbour city's bylaw. There are many large cities that allow chickens.
"Raising chickens is legal in all districts of New York city"..When we establish bylaws we remove hearsay. Hearsay evidence is not admissible in court. There is lots of evidence on the benefits of keeping backyard chickens..I've tried to present an argument to people who present reasons for not having chickens. Please allow people to keep chickens in their backyard. A well crafted bylaw will eliminate a lot of the argument against having chickens.
Our Twin cities have a lot in common....why not a similar chicken bylaw?

pigeonman 4 days ago

If cities like Kitchener and Guelph can have chicken and backyard fireplace, why not Waterloo?

mother mother 7 days ago

I agree with other commenters on this issue - support your local farmers and do not allow chicken farming in city backyards. We've had first-hand experience with a neighbour a few doors down setting up a chicken coop a few years ago (against bylaw). Within less than a week there was an issue with noise, smell and the worse was that the chickens attracted vermin like rats, hawks and coyote. Backyards are so close together in the city that having an outdoor animal like chickens will affect all neighbours. Our bylaw enforcement has so much work that they're already doing - why keep adding to their plates.

If the city decides to allow chicken coops - they should consider only allowing them to be set up in a larger community area like a park - have a communal garden with a chicken coop that the neighbours take care of. This will enable them to be set up far from backyards in an open area.

flowergirl1 7 days ago

The outrage is quite interesting - a lot of "they belong on a farm!" and "they smell" and "but salmonella!", "rats!". You know what's a lot noisier, smellier, etc? A dog. It's all about what people are used to. There is no real reason to say no to chickens in reasonable numbers with proper limits and good regulation. Well cared for birds are far less obtrusive than the uneducated observer seems to think.

I've had chickens in the past, and was annoyed that my choice to live in Waterloo meant I couldn't have them in the near future. I'm all for it.

Good for the kids, pet that tangibly gives back to the family and it even teaches all kinds of good lessons in responsibility and connection to the food chain/nature.

Audi 14 days ago

We let people keep dogs which have particularly foul excrement, bark and no offset is required for a kennel. I had a chicken in the city and she was quiet, her excrement went in the compost and didn't have a huge off set from my neighbours, who never complained. Number of chickens should be determined by area available, so two in a constrained space, six in a large yard. As for duplexes and town houses, if carefully done it should be fine, an apartment in the same list seems like you are fishing for a negative response, however I I want to keep a cockatoo or parrot I wouldn't have problem so long as the apartment allows pets. And those are some noisy birds! Can we make this like most pets, if the animal is well cared for and there are no complaints, why inspect? If there are complaints, then inspect because it will be less onerous on everyone. If not please start inspecting each home which houses a dog, cat or bird too just to be fair. Some of them are ill equipped to keep those animals also.

ChloeB 14 days ago

This is a nice thought, but very hard to regulate upkeep of coops, avoid proliferation of further rat populations from stray feed, and infiltration of foxes and coyotes attracted to them as prey.

AceDesign 15 days ago

I do not want chickens allowed. This survey already has decided for them because it does not allow an answer that refuses them . A complainant will always be viewed as the bad guy, but when I bought my house there was no zoning for farm animals in my area, If there was I would not have bought. Totally unfair to change this and pit neighbours against each other. Make an arrangement with a farmer if you want pet chickens. And the spread of salmonella is not negligible.

resident 1 18 days ago

Letting people have chickens in their backyards is as crazy as allowing geese to wander around all over. Oh, wait a second, geese (see fowl) already wander around all over and there is no concern with that! Get real and let people have some unique pets/food/entertainment if they want. As for smell, my neighbor smokes. I think I would rather smell a chicken.

Tireland 19 days ago

Perhaps setting up a platform for chicken owners to share information, educate each other and answer each others questions regarding caring for chickens is one way to tackle the concern of people not properly caring for their chickens. Backyard chickens are a great opportunity for people to develop healthy hobbies, do some good for the environment and educate our younger generations.

Danica 19 days ago

I love the idea of backyard chickens, whether my own or others. Fresh chicken eggs are a fantastic source of healthy food. We are surrounded by cities who permit backyard chickens and some residents are grandfathered to have backyard chickens. I have not seen any issues reported in the paper. I know of a teenage girl who has a variety of chickens. It is a wonderful hobby and small business for her as she makes an income selling her eggs.
A note about question 4 in the survey regarding What concerns do you have...? There was no option to select none and you were required to check something. Other could mean anything. So you have 100% of residents checking a 'concern' for question 4 and that will definitely skew your results. Please consider this when tabulating your results. Thanks.

pfenness 20 days ago

No thanks, no chicken coops,, smell not wanted, noise not wanted, I want to enjoy my garden too. too many predators in this area already and I am already disturbed by lound low flying aircraft so do not want to hear fox attacking hens in the middle of the night.

resident 1 20 days ago


teegirl 22 days ago

The survey was written with language expressing a bias toward allowing chickens in urban/suburban areas: 'If allowed .....'etc. This 'sets up' Council to approve the idea despite the many negative reasons not to allow these animal farms. Some people have stated that these coops are successful in other communities. We don't know how many coops have been approved or the problems that have been encountered and how those municipalities are dealing with them. Many residents will not complain about their neighbour because they fear the complaint will not be confidential or the neighbour will learn somehow and take retribution or that Bylaw will not react quickly and enforce the rules immediately. As others have stated, this just creates one more issue that the City will have to enforce at more cost to taxpayers; and most taxpayers shrill when there is any increase in property taxes.
People can grow vegetables and fruit (which are more expensive to buy) without the issues that raising chickens produces. Let’s encourage that idea first.

Shimin 22 days ago

If you are against this you hate poor people and love big business, hate the environment and food security and want all of your money to go to giant grocery chains. People who are concerned about smell and noise but don't care about the smell and noise of our heavily travelled streets appear to me (someone who was raised in the country with over 300 chickens) to be incredibly stupid and out of touch. If well kept, there is no smell, if well kept they make as much noise as a dog that occasionally barks. We already have rules for having a messy yard and being noisy that work just fine. Keep your nose out of your neighbour's business and your neighbour's yard. I cannot fathom why a person would be against this.

GuyRiel 23 days ago

I would love to raise a few chickens in my backyard. I think the success of similar programs in Kitchener, Guelph, and even grandfathered chickens here in Waterloo have shown that small numbers of urban chickens do not cause major problems in terms of smell or pests. We should follow the lead of other communities that have had success in terms of guidelines for size and distance from property lines and coop specifications.

I understand the fear and distaste felt by some individuals, but I hope that the evidence of success and low complaint numbers from other municipalities can help to assuage some of those fears and to guide Waterloo in formulating its own program.

hkeward 23 days ago

Why do we need chickens in backyards? Our food supply chain has not broken during the pandemic. Eggs are readily available in our city. Backyards in this city are small enough and some residents don’t feel the need to respect their neighbours properties and enjoyment of their outdoor space now.
Who would control these new intrusions into neighbourhoods? By law is already ineffective in this city and I am not interested in having to pay higher taxes to “police” this activity.
What other wildlife will we be inviting into an urban community and what will be the cost of trying to control that problem?

Hel 23 days ago

Most residential lots are way too small to accommodate chickens. The highest factor should be based on the size of your property.
We have a hard enough time in the summer with the smell from our neighbours smokers and chimineas.

DWF 26 days ago

I think with the increased density in our city living next to a home that had backyard chickens would be challenging in terms of the smell, noise and the presence of predatory wildlife. I question the qualifications of those who would want backyard chickens and this would necessitate the need for supervision from city officials. Such a cost would be born by taxpayers, who like myself do not support backyard chickens.

City Watcher 27 days ago

In short, chicken coops have no place in the modern urban environment.

There was once a time when people living in cities did have livestock - chickens for eggs and meat, and maybe a cow for milk. That was for people who once had large properties and likely had a horse shed out in their deep back yards for parking the main mode of transport at the time. It was simply part of reality in the day when supermarkets did not exist and refrigeration to keep food fresh such as milk and eggs was difficult and expensive. Now we live on relatively small lots with new ones, even in detached housing, only 20 feet or less from the neighbor's yard to the back of the house.

Also of concern is the potential to attract pests, particularly the ubiquitous Norway rat that is a constant problem in our area and for which I have to take measures repeatedly to control them, including this week. Such rats are attracted by food sources such as spilled bird seed under feeders, open compost bins and anything producing excrement and litter such as would do chickens. People in days of yore put up with rats, but also put up with the diseases they carried. Yes, the city says that rat control is a property owner's problem, but the city shouldn't put fuel on the fire of rat reproduction. We have enough problems with the people who feed ducks and geese along Laurel Creek and thereby continue to feed the rats with the leftovers that the ducks and geese leave after they have had their fill. Those rats then move on into nearby neighborhoods when the feeding stops or is diminished or the rat population gets too large to be sustained by that food source.

Considering the ongoing nuisance posed by the Norway rat, I would venture that it would be very unwise to add to the problem by allowing people to keep chickens in an urban environment. Public sanitation is a city responsibility, and this city should do more to take it seriously rather than cave in to trendy and noisy lobbies.

Yves 27 days ago

It's unfair to the birds and the neighbours.
There are neighbours on the street behind my apartment building, in uptown Waterloo, who keep several chickens in their backyard. I can hear them from my balcony on the 6th floor.

lharper 27 days ago