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Aug 16, 2016

Guelph’s Rules Regarding Urban Chicken Coops

Over the past few years, there has been growing interest in raising chickens and other birds in urban spaces. While several municipalities have actively taken steps to prohibit back-yard poultry farming, wannabe poulterers in Guelph are fortunate that the City’s by-laws permit keeping chickens, ducks, geese, and pigeons on residential property within City limits.

The City of Guelph By-Law Number (1985) – 11952 states that prospective poultry farmers can keep chickens as long as certain conditions are met regarding their storage. Specifically, birds must be, “kept in pens, with floors kept free from standing water, and regularly cleansed and disinfected.” The By-law also requires that bird pens, and coops, be set back fifty (50) feet from any school, church, or dwelling house (not including the owner’s). The by-law is meant to balance the needs of urban chicken keepers and health and safety requirements; an unkempt chicken coop can be an unsightly mess, a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, and harmful to the birds’ health. 

Urban poultry keepers wishing to keep roosters also need to be aware of the City’s Noise Control By-law (2000) – 16366. Rooster crowing can pose a potential problem because it can disturb neighbours at all hours of the day, depending on the type of rooster. The Noise By-law states that, “persistent barking, calling or whining of any domestic pet or any animal” is prohibited, unless it occurs on an agricultural property. Urban chicken farmers need to be aware of the noise produced by their flock and respect their neighbours’ enjoyment of peace and quiet.

Animal by-law violations are usually investigated using a complaint-based approach (i.e. no-harm, no-fowl). Prospective urban chicken keepers should ensure their coops meet the By-law requirements before they start raising birds. They should also have a plan in place for the winter months when coops and birds might need to be relocated.

If the neighbours or City begin to complain, urban chicken keepers should ensure they are in compliance with the aforementioned by-laws. Also, chicken keepers should document their coop’s construction, its set-back from dwellings, and cleanliness in order to address concerns in the future.

If urban chicken keepers are asked to remove their coops and flock, they should seek legal assistance to help determine their rights and responsibilities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstance.