Council Allows Backyard Chickens in Squamish

Mark and Brandy Willmot's son, Aidan, holds the chicken the family says will stay at their home.

 In this file photo, Aidan Wilmot holds the hen the Wilmot family had to give up a few years ago because of a threat of a bylaw fine.  Since the bylaw passed on May 20, the family plans to get two hens, said Brandi Wilmot, Aiden’s mom.


By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 24, 2014

On May 20, council amended the bylaw to allow backyard chickens, a decision that can bring joy or unease depending on your perspective.

The bylaw would be adopted later at a fourth reading, and until then regulations are in place. Council decision reflects a division that is shared within the community, with councilors split along familiar lines.

Rule-bound and traditionalist, Couns Doug Race, Ron Sander, and Mayor Rob Kirkham voted against the motion.


The purportedly progressive, Bryan Raiser, Susan Chapelle and Patricia Heintzman voted in favour.

Some will celebrate this as a victory for self-reliance and food security, while other will cry fowl over odour and bear calls.

For, Pam Isbell, it will feel like a relief. Just a few days ago, emotions choked her as she tried to speak in favour of allowing hens at her Fourth Ave home.

Four years ago, she had pleaded with the council to let her keep her hens, Rosy and Daisy.

She had the hens for two years, but a bylaw officer had spotted them while chasing a dog through her backyard.  

She received a letter from the district asking her to get rid of the hens or pay a $200 a day penalty.


Bylaw officers forced Pam Isbell to remove two of her pet chickens four years ago. At a public hearing on backyard chickens, Pam Isbell tried hard to fight back tears as she tried to tell council her story. An ‘animal person’ Isbell is seen with her cat and a friend in this file picture.
Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

Several people with similar—and opposing view— filled the council chamber on May 20 at a public hearing on backyard chickens.

Speaking on behalf of Squamish CAN, Carolyn Morris said allowing backyard chickens is a ‘brilliant opportunity’ to strengthen food security in the area.

Morris said about a year ago 317 people signed a letter supporting backyard chickens.

“Let’s look at how we can make these coops suitable for this area,” she said.

Downtown resident Mike Dobbin said a few chickens in the backyard are not loud, they don’t smell, and chicken is no more of an attractant than any other bird.

“It’s completely inconsistent with what we have to done in the last 10 years to be wildlife safe.” Doug Race

“As long as the attractants are not there, the bears are not there,” he said.

There were plenty of residents on the other side of the debate, however.

Dave Colwell said he was in support of a chicken coop located away from residences, but not in favour of keeping chickens or any farm livestock in residential backyards.

Donald Bryne also raised similar views, saying he was opposed to backyard chickens.

Meg Toom, the WildSafeBC coordinator, said Squamish remains one of the top communities for bear related calls. She said two bears and one cougar have been destroyed in chicken related calls.

She said that any wildlife that is found hunting chickens will be destroyed, not relocated.

Coun. Doug Race said it’s dumb to allow backyard chickens in Squamish, a community that has invested heavily in being Bear Smart.

“This is dump and stupid,” he said.

“It’s completely inconsistent with what we have to done in the last 10 years to be wildlife safe.”



  1. L gerhardt says:

    This is “dumb and stupid” …..all the work we have tried to do to try and keep bears and cougars away from people and now you have just given the go ahead for them to walk right in…and what if…ur child was out getting eggs in the morning and comes face to face with a hungry bear…then what will happen! What’s wrong with u people ?

  2. Dave says:

    I sent this to Council:
    To the Mayor and all Council Members:
    So you have passed the bylaw on backyard chickens. Yes this is the result of the democratic process, but now pass the other necessary bylaw after you have made it up….( By the way this should have already have been prepared and included in the existing bylaw…my opinion).
    This new, very important bylaw extra should include the following points:
    1. There should be all the adequate deterrents against intruding wildlife…I will not need to elaborate here!
    2. Any chicken coop should not be placed against any neighboring property boundary…rather it should be placed at least 20ft. from such boundary, not the present 7ft. allowance (or has that changed?) *
    3. Only Chickens please!…No roosters
    4. Regular inspections by the bylaw people….they will love it…it gives them self esteem! :-)
    5. Council should hold by, as stated by our Mayor at the public input meeting on this, that Garibaldi Highlands is covered by a pre-existing covenant that “there shall be no backyard fowl allowed”.
    8. There should be a limit on the number of birds…say 5. and they should be birds which have the expectation of laying eggs
    9. The coops should be robustly built to deter predatory wildlife from entry, preferably with electric fence technology.
    10, Any neighbour should be given the right of veto prior to their adjacent neighbour embarking on this kind of project.

    I still support the concept of a District Chicken Co-op.

    Thank you and respectfully, Dave Colwell,
    Garibaldi Highlands, BC, Canada V0N 1T0
    (* This is singularly the most important point. Present and future neighbours need to be considered.)
    Do something similar if you feel like it!

    • Rob says:

      I agree with Dave’s track of thought here in principal, not all the specific details, but think he is on the right track on this. Allow fowl, put in place some basic reasonable requirements, deal with actual issues (not delusions) and live and let live.

  3. Don Patrick says:

    Do we not have any recall at all of the past… chickens and their by-products can be a positive, but it is not a fun little exercise. If these so called sustainable freaks with limited knowledge of their feather friends come to the realization that it is not a simple game… then charge them to the ears for any inconvenience that becomes a burden on society. And just to add, those yes votes on council are idiot votes and should be remembered when it becomes election time.

  4. Patricia Marini says:

    Raised on a farm in northern Sask. No bears or cougars after chickens. Bears don’t eat chicken. If the food is kept stored properly no rats either, besides several people in Squamish have had back yard chickens for years, why would you take pet hens away???

  5. Manok says:

    “Dumb and stupid” – apt description. Two bears and one cougar destroyed in “chicken related” calls. In how long? Were these animals already foraging in residential areas? How many have been destroyed in Barbeque related calls? garbage related calls? Fruit tree related calls?

    I’ve kept backyard birds in a residential neighbourhood for more than a decade. Wildlife, noise and odour are not issues. My neighbours love them, people walking by with their kids come to visit them regularly. People stop their cars and bring box of lettuce and veggie cuttings to feed them.

    It’s been entertaining to watch as these councillors and planners who have no experience or facts protest all the different reasons why this is the beginning of the end. Like the billboard that ‘ruined’ our view of the Chief, and the skate boarders who are going to take over your street and you’ll never be able to sleep again, and liability will bankrupt us all . . .

  6. Dave says:

    Manok. It seems that your intolerance certainly balances your tolerance….Just different things that’s all!! ….”take over your streets”…..”beginning of the end”…..”ruined our view”…”never be able to sleep again”.
    My you are bitter! But ,at least, your chickens are well behaved :-) You think chickens deserve a break , I think kids deserve a break!

  7. larry mclennan says:

    Licence them- buck buck buck

  8. G_h says:

    I guess if you are a councillor who wants to get re-elected it’s a good strategy to pander to some passionate special interest group who might back you next time. Even better, several such groups. Personally I am really hoping the chicken-fanciers, sk8ers, drive-thru-haters, etc will not supply enough votes to return Bryan ‘n Susan to council. Less pandering, more boring pragmatists please.

  9. Rob says:

    To those opposed to chickens: before you express your opinion, ask yourself a few questions: Do I have a dog? Do I have a cat? Do I have a small child (that always leaves food all over the place)? If you answer yes to those, then just to be fair we have to ban those too – based on evidence, not fallacy.
    The “Rule-bound and traditionalists” will always try to ban/avoid/get rid off everything that is different, change or does not fit their narrow points of view. What a miserable way to go through life. I used to be like that, thank God I’m changing!

    • Brad says:

      I have experience with chickens. They are not like dogs, cats or children. I am agnostic mostly about all this, but I do know chickens are a fair amount of work, produce a considerable amount of waste and dust and are a wildlife attractant. Do a google search on ‘what killed my chickens’ or ‘chicken suit’.

      I am hoping, having passed this thst the next step will involve stringent regulations and a licencing fee that deters the casual. I understand what you are trying to say, but bear in mind there were legitimate reasons for banning chickens from urban areas, and that the people who do mot want to live next door to chickens have rights also.

  10. Dave says:

    Rob, I don’t want a chicken coop attached to my fence, because that’s where it will likely go without enforced controls, I do not want to smell chicken shit. Find me some that’s odourless, I do no want large wildlife even investigating the origin of kitchen scraps or fish meal ( and don’t give me the BS about how this will never happen) and I don’t want to fall out with my neighbour.
    These are just a few of the issues…there are many more. AND I have kept dogs and cats. I fed them indoors, I did not throw the food into the yard. Do you do that? My child did not leave food around the garden that was not cleaned up very soon, if it rarely happened. Try not to be simplistic.
    We are told by the wildlife people to place our bird feeders up out of the way of bears and preferably not even use them in the summer. …to lock our garbage totes which have kitchen scraps in them etc. …why is that? that BS too? Your selfishness with your or your friend’s silly little hobby in residential areas far outstrips mine.
    Please note: I would like to see a co-op and I would like to see backyard chickens reared in the right place, on rural zoned land.
    Now the bylaw is almost here, bring on the regulations. Lets hope they are ALL enforced including the electric fences…dig into your pockets for your very few eggs or buy them!
    But you know that the District can ill afford to enforce the Bylaw properly, don’t you?…I certainly do!
    This being said , I respect the democratic process. If you want to comment, please address all of the points I have made.

    • Rob says:

      If you go from the point of view that it is possible to have responsible dog and cat ownership, then by the same argument it is possible to have responsible fowl ownership, as we are talking about the same demographic.
      On the other hand, if the argument is that dog and cat owners are generally irresponsible, then OK, we can say they won’t be responsible with chickens either. I’m sure there will always be some irresponsible owners, just like for cats and dogs. (Can we have a hands-up please for people who let their cats roam free? Doing their business in other peoples vegetable gardens, kids sandboxes and caterwauling in the middle of the night? Or dog owners not picking-up, dogs barking at all hours, dogs attacking kids etc.?) What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Actually, I can’t see a reason why we can’t keep sheep too.

  11. Rick says:

    I was in Vancouver today and was talking to a client about back yard chickens in Squamish. I have not researched his response but what a story. Vancouver has opened a chicken half way house for neglected abanded chickens where the novelty has gone by the wayside by chicken enthusiast. At a cost of 1.9 million dollars to the tax payer. Can’t wait for this one to come up for discusion.

  12. Anne Bright says:

    I agree with Dave 10000000%. Well written! Poor wildlife that this will impact. The MANY feral felines will have something else to occupy them now instead of birds. Shaking my head. AND, I too am 100% onboard with a community Co-Op as well – developed in the right area.

  13. Gary says:

    How is that Sander, Race and Kirkham were less ‘rule bound and traditionalists’ when it came to relaxing the subdivision rules for Cheema lands ?

  14. Natasha Provost says:

    Campbell river , on the island, just passed a by law allowing backyard chickens. There are a lot of rules thy the council also stipulated that go along wih having them. How they are kept, the number allowed, no roosters, no but hearing on property, where in yard they are allowed, etc. take a look at them to see if any of that would be okay for Squamish.

  15. TJay says:

    Why all the hate ??

  16. Dave says:

    TJay: There is no hate…what are you talking about? I love chickens, I just don’t want them that close. I felt the same about my mother after I grew up and got married! What ever is your problem?

    • TJay says:

      Only four words and you flipped out….sensitive aye ?
      Look up ‘humor’ in your Pictionary, it’s under ha ha.

  17. ted prior says:

    chickens? I fine it so interesting that this is one of the hot topics . council makes hundreds motions through the year and this dusts to the top.Squamish has all ready up word of 100 people with chickens in town now haven’t you all noticed ? Some people feel very strongly that chickens are bad? well do not have them then . Other people like the idea of having fresh eggs instead of drugged eggs . they like to have chickens to teach there kids about food and where comes from. A place to get rid of the table scraps and collect great shit for the garden. What is the big deal? I think that the loss of industrial land base…the 11,000,000,00 $ debt on sodc where the money go … boundary expatiation…. Attracting Jobs ..Affordable housing .. Digital strategy..How about how are we going to handle the million people that are going to come to our town this year .. These are some of the other important issues So to growing your own food go for it . There will be rules and things will have to be clean and safe like so many other towns in the world . Now that all being said I am going for some scrambled eggs.

  18. Dave says:

    Sure Ted. Have your chickens but not next to me…and I am speaking for others in the same situation. I do not want a coop with an electric fence on my property line and any investigating large wildlife trampling over my lot. And I do not want ANOTHER bear shot on my lot when it is not my fault. Can’t you get your mind around this just a little bit??? I know you love your Grand children, so do I! I also like to get on with my neighbours and not let a silly hobby spoil it. My, you have sure changed your view since we last talked…must be family pressure, I guess. Drugged eggs, getting rid of table scraps, teaching kids where food comes from….hmmm.
    Ted, go back to important things and don’t champion this stupid idea…I agree!

  19. ted prior says:

    The north Van policy for chickens states no coop will be with 20 ft. of the property line . You had Bears shot on your property? would it be the Barbeques that are attracting them or does your neighbor have chickens ? Dave this Bylaw is just one little thing on our list of business that council is governing but for some reason it is one topic that afew people like to comment on . Do you think hundreds of people will be wanting to spend hundreds of $ for chickens ? I don’t . I do not think it will make much difference . It will make the 100 or so people that have had Chicks for years legal . Please refrain from to much stress on this one untill you see the policy that we copy from one of the other many towns that have lead the way. Food for thought .

    • TJay says:

      Well, said Ted….the others are out to lunch….probably a vegetarian lunch…..
      By the way, chickens are intolerable for the ‘Noses up in the Airs’…but screaming, yelling, misbehaved children, or yappy (and ‘lawn visiting’ dogs) are quite ok for that ilk of humanity…hmmmm….

  20. Dave says:

    Thanks Ted. I will wait,”like Patience on a monument” for the bylaw….but also to see you Guys enforce the new regulations on this for everyone…old keepers and new! You heard Meg give her opinion albeit under some apparent duress due to politics about attractants to wildlife which IS shared by the wildlife people whether you choose to accept it or not (oh but you asked her to speak, didn’t you?). You want chickens?…when I see you fork out all the necessary cash and show us your model coop in the MIDDLE of your back yard with all the electrical trimmings, I will shut up :-) …Nothing personal, you realise. By the way, don’t ever sell your eggs to anyone, otherwise it could be technically said that you would be in “Conflict of Interest”…Joking on this one, of course, since you could not make any money on just four chickens! Please don’t bonk them on the head yourself when they are worn out, that’s cruel and technically illegal…take them to the vet and pay your humane dues.

  21. TJay says:

    First fix up the ‘important’ things on this earth… then you may have the ungodly right to whine about chickens… but I sincerely doubt that any sanctimonious Squamishites could qualify… You would have to be Yahweh in order to do so….. and there is ONLY one .

  22. TJay says:

    We used to exist quite fine before Save On Foods etc.
    Come back to the ground after you spacey flights and get a bloody brain ….
    Luv yah !