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Council temporarily chickens out on approving backyard fowl

City council likes the idea of raising chickens at home but stopped just short of approving backyard poultry at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Coun. Ryan Mennie has heard from several people who want to legally grow their own food on their residential properties.

“I continue to hear support from the community and it’s great to see,” Mennie said.

Council chambers were full of poultry advocates there to support a presentation by Morgan Ostler and Dylan Klassen.

The pair, part of a local agriculture support group, asked council to consider its request to allow residents to keep female chickens in their backyards – no matter where they live.

“There are on Vancouver Island, many, many communities that have approved the poultry issue,” Ostler said. “We’re the minority now in British Columbia of not having poultry in our backyard.

“As council knows, when the Sustainable Official Community Plan went through about two years ago it also included support for poultry, as well as bees, and the hope was by having poultry we could continue with our vision of eating closer to home.”

Klassen said there are several benefits to raising chickens.

“It’s being in control of where your food is coming from and not being worried about the price, just being worried about the upkeep,” said Klassen who noted chickens will reduce the amount of pests in the soil, eliminating the need for pesticides.

On top of that, Ostler said raising chickens can help cut down on the amount of waste going into the landfill.

“We have a serious problem with the amount of garden waste going up to the dump,” she said.

While Ostler and Klassen listed all the benefits of backyard poultry, some members of council still had concerns.

Coun. Larry Samson said he’s worried about complaints.

“One of my concerns would be staffing time and that would be dealing with complaints of the neighbours ranging anywhere from untidiness to people who aren’t properly looking after their chickens,” he said.

Ostler responded that those interested in raising chickens would be encouraged to take an educational program.

Still, Mayor Walter Jakeway is worried the SPCA could wind up having to deal with chickens abandoned by an owner who no longer wants them.

“I’m for chickens but I don’t think we should expect the SPCA to absorb orphan chickens – there will be orphan chickens – they don’t have enough capacity in their terrible building they’ve got now to cope with orphan chickens,” Jakeway said. “I think the chicken community needs to find a way to deal with people who don’t know how to look after animals properly.”

Klassen said he’s confident that with the proper education people will be responsible. Jakeway also suggested that the chicken coops be subject to setbacks similar to what homeowners follow when building a house.

He said that way there would be “a buffer between neighbours who might not want to have chickens poking their heads through the fence.”

In the end, council voted to have the newly-created Advisory Planning and Environment Commission review backyard chicken bylaws across Vancouver Island to help Campbell River and report back to council by the end of April.

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