Campbell River not chicken about developing new hen bylaw

Overwhelming majority of community members supported hen keeping in residential areas

City council is hatching a new bylaw which, if passed, will allow residents, no matter where they live in the city, to legally raise chickens in their backyard.

Council, at its Tuesday night meeting, directed city staff to prepare an urban hen bylaw which addresses a number of issues.

Coun. Ryan Mennie, who sits on the city’s Advisory Planning and Environment Commission which was tasked with the chicken bylaw, said the commission considered what other municipalities are doing with respect to backyard poultry.

“In our discussions, some members wanted to get into the nitty gritty and saw the amount of work other municipalities had done. We did see what was successful in other communities,” Mennie said. “Many municipalities have gone through this and we’re taking the best pieces that work for our community and taking the successes of those municipalities and rolling it in a bylaw.”

There has been interest throughout the community over the past several years to allow backyard hens.

Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, said through public forums and an online survey, the city received feedback that the overwhelming majority of community members participating in the Sustainable Official Community Plan process supported hen keeping in residential areas. Zirnhelt noted that a significant amount of home owners are keeping hens in contravention of city bylaws and the city has not received any complaints so far this year. In the past two years, the city has received an average of four to five complaints per year, but most pertained to roosters.

Zirnhelt said the benefits of keeping urban hens include: access to locally raised food; ability for hen owners to determine the source of their food and how it has been raised, fed, and treated; access to cheaper health food protein; convenient and regular access to a healthy food source; an opportunity for families to learn where food comes from and an opportunity for children to learn about the food system and caring for animals; chicken manure provides soil for compost and gardening; chickens consume food scraps, helping to divert organic material from the landfill; chickens help reduce the reliance on pesticides as they eat problem weeds; and reduction in unnecessary waste associated with food storing and transportation.

The recommendation to council was to adopt a bylaw which addresses the following issues related to backyard poultry: noise, rodents, smell, end of life disposal of hens, whether or not there should be a hen registry, butchering of hens, number of hens allowed per lot size, inhumane protection, coop/pen requirements, selling of eggs, meat, manure, and roosters.

But Coun. Andy Adams was concerned that those uneducated with respect to raising chickens would take advantage of the new bylaw and create problems for the city.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m against this because I know there are people who want to abide by the bylaws, are keen and gung ho, but there are those who don’t,” said Adams who added he’s aware there are some in the community who don’t know how to properly maintain a chicken coop.

Mennie said there is always the possibility of “a couple of bad eggs wrecking it for everyone else” but said it comes down to the community being educated, which the city intends to do.

“This is a bylaw that allows something for people in the community who want to do it, this is more to allow versus to open the flood gates for everyone getting chickens,” Mennie said.

Council agreed and voted to have city staff come back to council with a prepared urban hen bylaw. Adams put a motion on the table to only allow properties one acre in size or more to have backyard hens, but that was defeated.