Ottawa says “NO” to rural Chickens by Joanne Martin

Published December 1, 2013

I look out the front window of my home and across the road I see a herd of beef cattle. I look out off my back porch and I see corn and soybean fields. I look down at my feet and I see my small flock of Rhode Island Red hens wandering about eating grass and bugs.

Ottawa Chickens

Ottawa Chickens

If you ask anyone who drives by my property they’d describe it as ‘country living’. I’m over 8 km from the nearest gas station, and over 25km from the nearest Walmart. I have a well and a septic system, and there is no public transportation. But, alas, my privately owned, half acre piece of paradise is technically ‘Residential Property within the City of Ottawa’.

According to the City of Ottawa’s ‘Animal Care and Control By-Law No 2003-74’, my little flock of laying hens are illegal. The City of Ottawa has determined that, for definition purposes, a chicken is the same as a cow or a goat; they’re all livestock:

“livestock” means any domestic fowl (including chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, etc.), horse, donkey, mule, bull, ox, cow or other cattle, goat, swine, sheep, llama, mink, fox, emu or ostrich, or the young thereof;”

Chickens were allowed in The City of Ottawa for over a hundred years. However, shortly after the eleven rural municipalities amalgamated with the City in 2001, the by-law was changed to:

74 (1) No person shall keep livestock in any area of the City unless the area is zoned for that purpose or is lawfully used for that purpose.

When asked what the City’s concerns were regarding backyard chickens in a recent CBC article, Christine Hartig, By-law and Regulatory Services officer for the City of Ottawa says, “Livestock are intended to be in agricultural areas and the issues around the area of having them in urban or suburban areas is that it’s not very conducive to keeping livestock in those types of area where they could potentially cause issues for neighbours”.

A couple in Constance Bay, Erika Tar and Andrew Elliott have three laying hens on their property. At 9pm on July 30th, 2013 a By-Law officer showed up at their home. They had received no prior warnings, phone calls, or letters from By-Law. The By-Law officer said a complaint had been filed against them regarding them having chickens in the City of Ottawa. He could not say what the complaint was about specifically, or who it was from, and was not clear to what the consequences would be if they continued to be non-compliant with the by-law. He said he had no choice but to enforce the by-law, and he would be back in three days to see if she had removed the chickens from her property.

When Erika realized the By-law officer had the authority to come back on her property at any time and take her chickens away, she decided to take action and has been working diligently to have the by-law amended. She has been granted several extensions on her fine while she challenges it, but it is an uphill battle with the City.

In another interview, Hartig says the City’s rules are in place for many reasons: “Attracting predators for example, if they get out; we don’t have an animal shelter prepared to take on chickens. Ottawa’s climate is not conducive to keeping a chicken coop in a backyard somewhere”.

This is another classic case of misinformed City officials applying blanket rules and regulations onto urban and rural areas and leaving the enforcement of these rules to the local by-law officer with no respect for individual property rights.

6 Responses to “Ottawa says “NO” to rural Chickens by Joanne Martin”

  1. Cliff Smith July 13, 2015

    I live in an urban area where a neighbour has 13 roosters and dozens of chickens but we have no by-law officer here and so getting rid of this horrible situation is very difficult. The neighbour is refusing to comply.
    My human rights are being trampled on as are my other neighbours.
    Anybody else have a similar situation?

  2. Grace Joubarne January 1, 2014

    To Thomas and Joseph…there is no way that I can see to contact you directly as the comment system does not appear to allow for a reply, but if you happen back, I suggest you contact Terrance Green of Green and Associates, Ottawa. He has done a great deal of work in this area…an honest, decent lawyer with a wonderful heart. A fine Human Rights/Civil Liberties lawyer is Yavar Hameed, also in Ottawa.

  3. Ken Hughes December 2, 2013

    In reply to Joseph.You are invited to witness my case in Goderich Provincial Court March 4th @ 9am I will have King George1V promises in my hand as I will find out who,s breaking the law on an attack on myself on unauthorized ownership of a grandfathered 22 and it is not myself that broke the law as this occoured on my property protected by CROWN PATENT .I did nothing wrong and the provincial never saw my simple 22 .It gets much better than I,m telling.But I would address the OLA anywhere and give my story.The only thing I believe the proincial court can do to save their sorry ass is drop the charge or throw it out before I can present my side.If they don,t gun legislation will be broken! 519-482-7508

  4. Joseph Soucy December 2, 2013

    Has anyone who has been affected by these by-laws and gone to court with their “Land Patent Grant” in hand?? And what was the outcome? Sure would be interested in hearing from some of those folks.

  5. Thomas K. Jones December 2, 2013


    My friend was charged with a by-law infraction when a neighbour complained about him & his children using motorized vehicles on his 40 acre property on the Oak Ridges Moraine. It cost him almost $30,000 to defend it & won, so the city appealed. ( He won again or did they win )

    We are trying to find a lawyer to make this a test case by suing the city to recover all of his costs.

  6. Ken Hughes December 1, 2013

    Cickens are a wonderful little animals that do a great duty in cleaning up many detructive bugs etc,I believe if the nieghbours realized they would be pleased.We on our property put potsons down continually battling destructive ants termites etc Just think they also give fresh eggs and a delicious chicken supper.Also please get your Crown patent as this wil stop the provincial intrutions!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Get all the latest OLA news
delivered monthly right to your inbox!