New twist added to chicken dis­pute

Pro­hib­ited from back­yard poultry, McIn­tyre’s Brent John­son gets a pig

North Bay Nugget - - NEWS - PJ Wil­son

Pork­chop loves lasagna. “I think he’s more Ital­ian than English,” Brent John­son says of the young Berk­shire pig he keeps in a pen at his McIn­tyre Street East prop­erty.

John­son stresses that Pork­chop isn’t its ac­tual name.

“you don’t name your food,” John­son said Sun­day as Pork­chop munched on pears and grapes, as well as its own food.

The pig is the latest salvo in a dis­pute be­tween John­son and the city, John­son says, which be­gan over a by­law from the 1970s that re­stricts chick­ens from be­ing kept in the city.

“I could have pheas­ants, tur­keys, emus, os­triches, lions, tigers, bears,” John­son said Sun­day.

“But for some rea­son, chick­ens are pro­hib­ited.”

He had kept some chick­ens in a coop on his prop­erty for sev­eral years, un­til he was in­formed chick­ens are only al­lowed with spe­cific re­stric­tions.

He re­luc­tantly got rid of the birds, giv­ing them to a home­steader near Sud­bury, then checked out the city by­laws to find out what he would be al­lowed to keep.

“I think it’s time that by­law was revamped,” John­son says.

He said the food char­ter, pro­moted by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health unit and en­dorsed by the city, en­cour­ages more whole­some food be­ing brought to the ta­ble.

The health unit, he said, has “no prob­lems with birds in back­yards.

“They can’t see a prob­lem with it,” he said of his own in­ter­ac­tions with the health unit.

He said he even had mem­bers of coun­cil on board with him, but none has yet pre­sented a mo­tion to coun­cil call­ing for the by­law to be amended, or elim­i­nated al­to­gether.

“I had one coun­cil­lor all set to bring for­ward the mo­tion,” he said, but six months after his pre­sen­ta­tion to coun­cil, there has been no move­ment.

Pork­chop, he said, is a clean an­i­mal, con­trary to the stereo­type. Pigs al­ways use a spe­cific area of their sty to defe­cate or uri­nate, and that’s all that area of the sty is used for.

John­son cleans the sty out twice a day, com­post­ing the fe­ces for fer­til­izer in his gar­dens. It’s pro­duced, rich, dark soil that any gar­dener would envy, with no odour.

“That’s what I used the chicken guano for,” he says.

John­son says one of his neigh­bours loved hav­ing the chick­ens around – par­tic­u­larly a rooster.

“It re­minded him of the old coun­try,” John­son says.

That neigh­bour is also a big fan of Pork­chop.

But while John­son’s plan now is to fat­ten the pig up to mar­ket weight – he should reach that by April – Pork­chop could save his own ba­con.

“My in­ten­tion is to rig up a har­ness for him” so he can walk the an­i­mal on city streets as a pet, not a main course.

“If I can get him fully har­ness trained, I’d think about walk­ing him ev­ery other Tues­day, maybe take him down by city hall as coun­cil­lors are leav­ing their meet­ings.”

He ad­mits this cam­paign “is be­ing done to prove a point to . . . coun­cil­lors.”

Toronto coun­cil re­cently ap­proved a pilot project al­low­ing res­i­dents of some neigh­bour­hoods to have chick­ens over the next three years.

res­i­dents in four wards will be al­lowed to keep up to four chick­ens — no roost­ers are per­mit­ted — and must reg­is­ter with the city.

Chick­ens would not be al­lowed in apart­ment build­ings, con­do­mini­ums or prop­er­ties with­out suf­fi­cient out­door space.

Op­po­nents of the pilot have ar­gued it will gen­er­ate com­plaints and tie up the city’s by­law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

Sev­eral mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in On­tario, in­clud­ing Kingston, Bramp­ton, Ni­a­gara Falls and Cale­don, all al­low res­i­dents to keep chick­ens in back­yard coops.

North Bay Coun. Chris Mayne said the mat­ter is on the back burner.

“We had some good, ca­sual dis­cus­sion about bring­ing it for­ward,” Mayne said, not­ing there were “come con­cerns about noise and health is­sues.”

He said there are other is­sues such as any costs as­so­ci­ated with polic­ing chicken coops in the city, which Mayne said would be borne by the North Bay and District Hu­mane So­ci­ety.

“It’s on hold,” he said, say­ing he wants to see how sim­i­lar projects in com­mu­ni­ties such as Huntsville, Kitch­ener-Water­loo and now Toronto fare.

There is no time frame, he said, but “if the hu­mane so­ci­ety came in to­mor­row morn­ing and said it would be a good idea, it would be much eas­ier to bring for­ward.”

PJ Wil­son/The NuggeT

Brent John­son gives Pork­chop a treat of a pear, Sun­day, in North Bay. John­son has been in a dis­pute with the city over rais­ing chick­ens at his home. But the city's by­laws do not pro­hibit rais­ing pigs.

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