Campbell River council tightens rules on keeping backyard hens

Changes made by council call for doubling of fines and seizure of chickens for those not abiding by the rules

Changes made by council Tuesday to the new urban hen bylaw will double the fines for those not abiding by the rules and allow the city to seize an owner’s poultry.

Council approved the bylaw at a council meeting Oct. 22, making it legal for residents living on residential properties to raise up to six hens in their backyards.

At that same meeting, council requested city staff report back on how best to deal with those who aren’t properly raising their hens and don’t know how to properly maintain a chicken coop.

Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, came back with a report released Friday suggesting council make a few changes to the bylaw to ensure compliance.

“The amendment bylaws have been updated to enable the city to revoke a hen owner’s licence and to provide the city with the ability to seize hens once a licence has been revoked,” Zirnhelt wrote in her report.

All residents who want to keep hens in their backyard must get a licence from city hall by filling out a licence form and paying a $10 fee.

Under the proposed changes, that licence could be revoked by the city and the hen owner could have their hens taken away if they are out of compliance with the bylaw and do not remedy the problem within 10 days of being notified of the problem by an animal control officer.

The alternative is a fine which city staff is recommending be increased from $50 to $100.

The city would also have the right to seize hens from any owner who does not have a licence.

The city’s backyard hen bylaw was crafted after years of lobbying by a local sustainability group.

The most recent effort was spearheaded by former councillor Morgan Ostler and Kira DeSorcey, a food sovereignty activist, last December.

Ostler said raising hens in local yards would help the city become a producer of its own food.

According to a May report from Zirnhelt, other benefits of keeping urban hens include: providing an opportunity for people to learn where food comes from and an opportunity for children to learn about the food system and caring for animals; chicken manure for compost and gardening; access to cheaper health food protein; regular access to a healthy food source; as well as diverting organic material from the landfill as chickens consume food scraps.