Now here is perhaps the most unusual request ever to come to roost at the Huntsville council table, and then when discussed at this newspaper, feathers too were flying.
What started off as an innocent discussion about the proposal before council to allow egg-laying hens in Huntsville’s urban backyards, soon began to ruffle some feathers in the newsroom.
Opinions flew about whether living next to hens would be desirable – bearable even – in close quarters.
Arguments were made about the smell and the hygiene associated with living next to 10 hens in 30-degree weather, not to mention the noise. It was a scrambled conversation indeed that left us with some very hard-boiled opinions.
Temperatures began to rise as someone retorted that having hens as neighbours would be a lot better than the current specimen of junk collectors they live beside.
Others, thinking purely in wholesome terms, argued about the merits of laying your own eggs (they meant the hens) sans chemicals and the environmental soundness of not having to ship them across the province.
Then property rights were thrown into the argument. What one does on one’s property is nobody’s business, came the statement. That argument was left frozen in its tracks when questions arose about whether it’s okay to bury corpses in your backyard — the skeletal remains of hens to be specific — only to be dug up and carried across property lines by raccoons, dogs, cats and other critters.
Then we had the animal rights activist angle, “how do we know your neighbour isn’t being cruel to his/her chickens?”
You could report them to the bylaw officer, responded someone. Great, more snitches, came the response.
The cacophony in the newsroom about whether having hens in your backyard is feasible, was louder than a chorus of clucking hens warning that there’s a fox around the corner.
Council has asked staff to further investigate. A similar proposal in Toronto has been put on hold.
With so many variables regarding whether to allow chickens in urban areas of town, perhaps a pilot is in order. When in doubt, try it out.
If things become unbearably noisy, smelly, and cars have to swerve to miss wayward chickens, or if we start getting more than our fair share of unwanted visitors, then perhaps having chickens in downtown Huntsville is not such a good idea.
On the other hand, if it works out, fresh eggs might get a starring role on more menus.