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.
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.”