Backyard Chickens Ruffle Feathers in Town

Chicken photo

A local resident chooses to remain faceless for fear of bylaw enforcement in this file pic from last year.
Photo: Maymie Tegart

By Annie Ellison
Published: Jan. 18, 2014

The question most people in Squamish have isn’t whether a district-wide co-operative chicken farm would be a good or bad idea, but on how would it work.

The question has ruffled many feathers and district aims to smooth some at a zoning bylaw public meeting on January 27 at the Squamish Seniors Centre.

Proponents say it’s the only safe way to have chickens given the bears and cougars we share the valley with.

But, others oppose the idea for a slough of reasons ranging from wildlife to added traffic to supporting local egg farmers to putting the chickens down when they stop producing.

Carolyn Morris is a member of the Squamish Climate Action Network and manager of the Squamish farmer’s market.

“People have a right to grow their own food and raise their own livestock,” she said.

But if people who are interested in sustainable food want to start a chicken co-op, they should just get together and talk to a farmer about doing it, said Morris.

“This doesn’t need to go through the district,” she said.

District by-laws prohibit backyard chicken coops unless they’re in an area zoned for agriculture.  In case you’re wondering whether your back yard falls into that category, agriculture is not permitted in residential neighbourhoods.

Morris says with the number of interested families — it takes about six chickens to produce enough eggs to feed a family — it would mean a lot of birds. She says it would in fact be a bigger wildlife attractant  (more chickens means stronger smell) than a handful of chickens in the back yard.

“If you have a hungry cougar, nothing’s going to get in its way,” she said.

“I remember one day walking into city hall and hearing about 29 chickens killed in Brackendale in a month.” Doug Race

Ultimately, Morris says allowing backyard hens with clear parameters for up keep would be a better option.

“No one has every squawked about the ducks in the slough out back. Do you see bears chasing down ducks?” she said.

People who are caught with chickens in an area that isn’t zoned for it can be hit with a penalty and fined up to $200 for each day the offence continues. But that’s never happened.

The district says it wants to include urban agriculture as part of its nebulous community plan. But, thousands of taxpayer dollars go to reducing the potential for human-wildlife conflicts each year.

Many residents say a commitment to reducing wildlife attractants would seem completely incompatible with locking a flock of helpless, stinky fowl outside.  

Councillor Doug Race voted against a council motion several months ago to allow chickens in back yards.  

“I remember one day walking into city hall and hearing about 29 chickens killed in Brackendale in a month,” said Race. “Twenty-nine chickens and a duck.”

Staff suggested the co-op as an alternative solution.  

The idea was to put it in a central location — much like a community garden — and properly secure it against wildlife. But questions as to which piece of land the district would use, and who would fund it, remain.  

“We’re probably talking somewhere not residential,” said Race.

Ideas floated around by local residents via Facebook include Valleycliffe, the Easter Seal Grounds and the logger sports grounds.

If the chatter among Squamish locals on social media is any indication, the survey results will be a rich source of material.

 

 

Comments

  1. Dave says:

    Have a co-op which is not overly close to houses but relatively central…like in the industrial park, etc. …BUT NOT on small residential R1 lots. My views on the latter are well known and I will not keep repeating myself.

    If you want a chicken farm, have one, but do not force what is really a selfish, quaint little hobby on your neighbour! The District cannot afford to control any abuses adequately.

  2. David Lassmann says:

    A chicken coop on a large lot, say 1/2 acre, should not be a problem. Care must be taken or the coop and yard can become very stinky. Bears, skunks and most likely bobcats and coyotes also like to eat chickens so lots of chickens in a neighbourhood will create a conflict between wildlife and people. Chicken farms should probably be confined to rural areas.

  3. Jean says:

    Maybe we should invest in a community Chicken farm on Nexan land as an early warning station for the potential relies of LNG on the proposed Woodfibre Industrial Chemical plant site. Like the canaries in the coal mine, where they will warn us of the Natural gas compressed and super cooled CNG to LNG which is proposed if going ahead , to be processing and be shipping out of this country, to other markets, that will bid for it at highest prices, much higher then the present available CNG now very reasonably Priced.

    We will be, unless there is a preferential agreement for domestic consumed Gas established before a go ahead is given and with it, a freez of CNG price, which will be a very minute part of the gas proposed to be exported, estimated into the Trillions of tons. It will have a very negative effect on the local supply of CNG for the future, that and besides the smell of the Sulphur Dioxide exhaust of the chemical plant converting the gas to LNG ” Rotten Egg Perfume” and released into the atmosphere and with it, into the Ocean afterwards. As the Howe Sound is a very complicated situation with regards to wind and Inversion,s definitely would come back to hit Squamish with that Rotten Egg smell once again…

  4. Dave says:

    I agree Jean.
    LNG is much more an important issue than chickens but we have to have a bit of light fun sometimes :-)

  5. JR says:

    Council just voted to reduce bylaw hours. Allowing back yard chickens is just going to give bylaw officers more work because it’s bound to cause complaints amongst neighbours. So many people don’t look after their yards as is so I doubt they will look after chickens properly. I vote a big HECK NO to this notion.

  6. Auli Parviainen says:

    I wonder why people feel so strongly about what others do on their yards. What is offensive to one can be essential and part of a lifestyle to another. People don’t seem to bother to question at all the underlying philosophy and culture that led us down the path of pristine lawns and gardens as ornamental. While “lawns” were originally used for grazing and vegetable garden, the modern manicured lawns evolved post World II as a status symbol for the wealthy. They weren’t to be used for a purpose other than demonstrate one’s ability to enjoy leisure rather than use a yard for food production or labouring of any kind. Why is this important? Well, I find that social and cultural standard objectionable and would like to abolish lawns altogether due to the environmental impact they have. Alas, I recognize that it’s not my place to tell someone else how to enjoy their own surroundings and yard and it would be great if I was given the same option. Chickens are no noisier than any other pets and they certainly don’t smell if properly kept. I am amazed at how many people still think that, after sending people to space and the rover to Mars, that we don’t have the ability to manage our communities and eco systems. You mean to tell me that after thousands of years of managing (using that rather loosely)within an eco system we now are incapable of properly managing a few chickens in a semi-urban setting? People can get dogs, cats, snakes, rats, pigs and more as pets and we don’t base a whole policy around the few people who fail to do properly, why is it that chickens are now the flashpoint for the lowest common denominator? Repeatedly, studies have shown that education and good management practices are the key to successful anything, yet the chicken debate has deteriorated into a crude to have or have not argument. We have widely available tools to manage this issue and can raise funding from licenses. If you have to go through a process to get your chickens i.e. get a license, training and meet safe coop specifications you instantly eliminate those who aren’t committed to it. This is vastly more than we require of any pet owners, yet that is acceptable somehow. There are a number of people keeping chickens in Squamish but do you hear of complaints? How many complaints do you get about dogs and stray cats? It is not like there is going to be a wave of people suddenly setting up huge chicken coops, the activity is actually not economically that viable. People like me are motivated to do it to have fresh eggs, knowing where your food comes from and having self sufficiency. I would also like to keep a goat or 2 and lend them out to neighbours to trim the lawn every so often. This is how I would like to live my life and there will be no more burden to my neighbours than what we accept as living in the neighbourhood, namely the revved up dirtbike and snowmobile engines, lawnmowers and leaf blowers. I accept and respect the choices people make for their lifestyles and don’t ask them to move to a different location to do so, I would love if that respect went both ways.

  7. Dave says:

    Auli. So put your chicken coop in the middle of your backyard, not using your neighbour’s fence as a backing (like one of the walls). Put an electric fence around it and follow the bylaw (whatever it might be to the letter.) And don’t fall out with your neighbours if they complain if you are not following the code or they suddenly get investigatory, large wildlife encroaching on their lifestyle because of your “quaint hobby”. I like chickens, I was bought up on a farm but R1 is not appropriate for this venture. I sincerely hope that if this is allowed then the District has enough resources to “police” it, though I doubt it. I realise that you will probably be no problem. Chicken coops DO attract bears, coyotes and racoons …Check with Bear aware….they have done such a great job SO FAR! Don’t think that, once this gets rolling, people will not feed their chickens with all manner of smelly kitchen scraps …so why do we even bother with locked garbage totes? They will read about the nutritional value of fish meal too…one of the best chicken food….so? I guess it all boils down to your faith and not mine. I favour a Co-op in such a place as the industrial site, away from people’s residences, flanked by signs…”BEARS NOT WELCOME!”.