A popular and controversial topic is back on the agenda at North Bay city council, with some residents hopeful chickens will eventually be allowed in non-rural backyards.

Jim and Emma Wilson gave a public presentation on the topic to council on Sept. 15 and backyard chickens are on the agenda for the Sept. 29 meeting.

“Our desire in the presentation was really to bring an awareness or an information source to the possibility of having backyard hens,” said Jim. “Kind of highlighting and acknowledging that there are a lot of municipalities, especially across the country, who have already done this.”

At Tuesday's meeting, a motion asks city council to authorize a report outlining a framework and regulations for a possible backyard chicken program within city limits.

“Backyards chickens have been on the agenda for, I think, quite a few years now,” said city councillor Marcus Tignanelli. “I remember when I was first running for council I was approached by quite a few people about bringing the backyard chicken bylaw forward. I didn’t see it as overly important at the time. But now another family has come forward and several people have emailed.”

Many larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver have rolled out backyard hen programs. Locally, Powassan changed its bylaw in May to allow for five hens per yard back.

In North Bay, the Wilsons had five hens in their backyard earlier this year before they found out about the bylaw.

Loved the fresh eggs

“We loved having the fresh eggs daily to consume, we loved being able to have our kids take care of them, we loved the fact that they ate most of our compost,” said Emma.

“They are great for pest control," Jim added. "They’re really good in terms of eating up ticks and grubs and other things like that. They’re amazing in terms of manure production.”

If council votes yes Tuesday, Tignanelli said the report could take a couple of months to prepare, which would delay an actual decision until at least next year.

“I don’t think we have a timeline yet,” he said. “There’s a little bit of research that has to go into it. The good thing is this has already been done. Toronto and Vancouver, both major cities, they both have backyard hen programs. Powassan and Mattawa. You know, we’re right in between and I think there’s enough research that’s been done that we’re not reinventing the wheel.”

Tignanelli said some concerns against backyard chickens are noise and smell. However, the Wilsons said those aren’t actually an issue.

“Hens aren’t loud at all," Emma said. "In fact, I would say dogs are probably, and our children, are a lot louder then the hens are.”

As far as the smell, Jim said it's controlled with proper bedding and maintenance.

The Wilsons are hoping that one day they’ll be able to bring chickens back home.

“They almost become pets really,” said Jim. “So that was a part of the heartache of having to transition them off our property and a big part of the hopes of being able to have that opportunity again.”