Stanstead residents cry fowl over urban chicken restrictions

By Michael Boriero – Local ­Journalism Initiative Reporter

The great chicken debate is taking over the Town of Stanstead after it was discovered a resident in a designated urban zone had dozens of chickens and several pigs on their property.
A concerned citizen brought forward a complaint to the town council and a Société protectrice des animaux de l’Estrie (SPA) inspector was sent to the property to evaluate the situation.
Angered by the sudden visit from the SPA, the resident in question divulged that many people in town are harbouring chickens. The animal protection organization subsequently asked that everyone get rid of his or her animals, or face hefty fines.
“I had no clue there was a law in place that we weren’t allowed chickens and I really don’t see the problem of having chickens,” said Stanstead resident Julie Cloutier.
Cloutier and her husband set up a coop three weeks ago not knowing that a law exists forbidding residents in urban ‘gray zones’ from owning the flightless birds. She has always been an animal person and chickens were on her radar for a while.
“We’ve been talking about it, doing our research, what they like, their food, how to take care of them, winter, so we did all that research before we actually got them,” she said.
The 33-year-old is one of the residents now fighting to change a law that has been around for over two decades. She showed up to a public consultation at Pat Burns Arena on Wednesday evening with 386 signatures from pro-chicken current and former residents.
Chickens are very therapeutic, she explained, which was also an argument made by one of the 25 or so citizens at the consultation. It’s relaxing to watch them bob their heads up and down and, Cloutier added, they make for genuinely entertaining pets.
Another resident who spoke at the meeting said that chickens are not only valuable for their eggs, but for what they can teach children about organization and nature. Cloutier agreed with her.
“It’s good for kids that have anxiety issues, it relaxes them and it also teaches kids to live off the grid kind of, you know, not to rely always on groceries because eventually you never know a grocery store might not have supplies,” she said.
Stanstead Mayor Philippe Dutil, who led the discussion Wednesday, said the town is still gathering information before they decide to amend the law. He reminded folks that there aren’t many places in Quebec that allow chickens in urban areas.
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