Don't count your backyard chickens out until they're… well, really out.
Despite one councillor's insistence that he and colleagues should put the issue out to pasture, ban chickens in residential neighbourhoods and move on to “more important” issues, it seems the little domestic egg-laying critters just won't go away.
On July 24, Squamish councillors meeting as Committee of the Whole adopted a recommendation that local residents be allowed to keep bees, but not chickens or other “miniature” farm animals in residential areas. The key reason: chickens attract bears and perhaps cougars, leading to a higher incidence of human-wildlife conflict.
But Committee of the Whole votes are not binding, and at Tuesday's (Sept. 4) regular meeting, council voted 4-3 in favour of Coun. Patricia Heintzman's motion to not permit the keeping of backyard chickens for now but to seek more community dialogue on the issue before potentially bringing it back for another look.
“It's a public safety issue and I have to say, I'm frankly a little embarrassed that we're spending this much time on this debate,” Coun. Ron Sander said. “I, for one, would like to talk about something that's more important. Let's get on with some economic development discussion.”
Coun. Sue Chapelle disagreed.
“I do find food policy and the education of our children surrounding food an important issue. It is an important issue in my community,” she said.
Coun. Bryan Raiser made a motion to separate the issue into three separate votes: One for backyard bees, one for chickens and one to support the establishment of a bylaw encouraging the formation of a community small-livestock co-op on appropriately zoned land. That motion was defeated, with Sander, councillors Ted Prior and Doug Race and Mayor Rob Kirkham voting against.
Heintzman then put forward her motion, insisting, “When this came forward to Committee of the Whole, my gut feeling was that we needed to have a lot more community dialogue.”
Prior said that while he “would like to have chickens myself,” he's now convinced that having chickens in residential areas presents a public safety hazard. Still, he said he's still open to discussion about the potential for a co-op if it could be made secure. Prior voted with Chapelle, Heintzman and Raiser in favour of Heintzman's motion.