The critters that just won’t go away — backyard chickens — are back on the District of Squamish’s plate, with a public hearing on an omnibus zoning amendment that would allow urban poultry in residential areas set for next Tuesday (May 6).
For at least two years, citizens have been asking local lawmakers to lift the bylaw banning backyard poultry — including chickens — in favour of what’s believed to be more in keeping with recent trends in urban agriculture.
The Chief this week went trolling on the Internet and found that the range of approaches to the issue were as “all over the map” as were the places themselves — from B.C. to California to New Jersey to Arizona.
Many say that if municipalities limit the number of chickens people can have — three or four seems to be most common — and ensure that pens are regularly cleaned and kept secure from predators (using sturdy, metal-fenced enclosures, not “chicken wire”), backyard chickens can work. Because of noise, roosters normally remain on the “banned” list.
Many B.C. communities including Vancouver, Surrey, Delta, Victoria and Nanaimo allow backyard flocks, with a variety of rules and stipulations.
But not everyone is onside. Late last year, the City of Abbotsford was asked to consider a pilot project to allow chickens in urban residential areas for a trial period. City staff recommended the ban be retained, citing issues with rodent attraction, noise and unsightliness. City officials who upheld the ban also raised concerns about the potential spread of avian flu and the impact that would have on the Fraser Valley’s agricultural sector.
Squamish’s exposure to that sort of risk would no doubt be more limited. However, it seems to us the single most important consideration here is the potential to increase the number of human-wildlife conflicts. In 2012, Sgt. Peter Busink of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service warned that no matter how well maintained and secure a chicken coop is, it will attract wildlife.
No need for a “trial period” here — if you lift it and it doesn’t work, just re-impose the ban. The only danger there is something yours truly could never fathom, but we suppose it’s possible: that a handful of owners might actually become attached to the clucking little critters.
— David Burke