Friday, September 18, 2015

Backyard Chicken Hearing for Minto Ontario

Connie is hoping to save her 3 chickens from the municipal bureaucratic steamroller.  The public input meet was held on Tuesday Sept. 15th 2015 in Clifford ON, and now we wait for Council's decision.

We previously described Connie's struggle to have a fresh, healthy supply of chicken eggs for her family, and SFPFC's attempt to help her efforts (see Backyard Eggs for Minto and Backyard Chickens for Canadian Municipalities ).

Connie reported that more than 40 people attended the public meeting.  People attended from as far away as Kincardine, Owen Sound, and Brantford.  Most people were there to observe the proceedings, and didn't reveal their leanings, neither pro nor con.

One lady did speak against the proposal for legal backyard chicken for Minto.  This contrarian lady lives in another community within the Minto municipality limits, but is not anywhere near Connie.  This lady explained that she objects to backyard chickens as she doesn't want to be sitting in her backyard and be overwhelmed by chickens in a neighbour's yard.  She fears she will be bombarded by chicken manure flying over the shared fence, landing into her yard, offensive odors, screaming rooster calls, the continuous cackle from a multitude of chickens, or the health risk and nuisance from chicken predators.

If those fears were realistic, I don't know many people who would welcome chickens in neighbour's yards; all problems, with no benefits.  However, what needs to be decided is whether these fears are realistic.  Assuming a 5 ft. high fence separates the neighbours, it is hard to imagine how chicken manure would come flying over the fence into a neighbour's yard.

Is she assuming that her neighbour will be using a chicken manure catapult to get rid of this valuable fertilizer?  Is this of any greater risk or hazard of a neighbour tossing all the rotting windfall fruit that fell from a neighbour's fruit tree? Why does one risk need a By-law but the other does not?

What about the noise from a flock of chickens?  Surely there is a different between a neighbour's fruit tree vs. a flock of chickens?

I have 100 layers in a coop located a dozen or so yards from my house. Assuming that the chickens aren't screaming for their life as they are chased by a fox or other predator, I find it difficult to imagine how the usual flock noise from would be offensive to a neighbour who would likely be 50 ft. away, or more.

Urban, at night sound levels are typically 12 to 52 dB.  Chickens are typically locked up inside their coop at night so as to protect them from from predators.  Add to this the chickens are typically sleeping at night.  These important factors would tend to significantly reduce any noise produced during the nightly quiet time.

Table 1:  Chicken Noise
Vs. Flock Size
If we assume that 1 chicken produced 30 dB of noise, what will the total noise level be for a flock of varying sizes?

Noise does not have a linear additive effect.  Sound power levels are logarithmic.

Engineering Toolbox provides a handy calculator for adding the noise from similar sound sources, from which we get Table 1 on the right.

Connie currently has 3 chickens.  The By-law may be considering a maximum of  5 backyard chickens.  According to this analysis, 5 chickens would be just 23% louder (37 dB vs. 30 dB) than a single chicken.

Even at a flock size of 100 birds, we would have a noise level of 50 dB, which is 67% louder than just 1 chicken.  A flock of chickens of 100 birds, the maximum non-quota flock permitted in Ontario, would be just 50 dB, which would be in the typical range of urban nighttime noise levels (12 to 52 dB).

Therefore any reasonable size flock should not overwhelm other urban noises that might disturb neighbours.

Hopefully Minto Council can see the difference from unreal fears and reality.

A second issue raised was the risk of Bird Flu (ie. HPAI:   Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza), supported by the local Public Health Unit.  It is unfortunate that the Health Unit raised the question, but failed to provide an answer to their question for Minto Council.

I have previously examined the risk of Bird Flu (see Blog Postings:
CAFO chicken factories tend to be associated with 85% of all outbreaks of Bird Flu, while small flocks have about 15% of all Bird Flu outbreaks.  This ratio is true in spite of small flocks being the vast majority of all flocks.  Based on a rough risk analysis I performed, CAFO chicken factories are 77 times riskier than a backyard flock for Bird Flu.  That risk cloud continues for 20 miles or more downwind of a CAFO chicken factory as the huge exhaust fans spew chicken dust, feathers, manure, and infectious bacteria & viruses downwind to unsuspecting victims.

If the Public Health Unit isn't banning CAFO chicken factories for this reason, then they shouldn't be raising Bird Flu as an objection for 3 backyard chickens.  That is clearly scare mongering and a red herring by the Public Health Unit.

Now, Connie has to wait a week to get Minto Council's answer on her flock of 3 chickens.

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