Backyard chicken coops pitched for Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows

Ceed Centres says municipalities should follow Vancouver's example

Christian Cowley

Christian Cowley

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows should follow Vancouver’s example and allow back yard chicken farming in residential areas, says a local environmental advocate.

Christian Cowley is the executive director of the Community Education on Environment and Development (CEED) Centre, and he is urging local residents to write to their councillors to ask them to consider a bylaw similar to the one the City of Vancouver has adopted allowing residents to keep up to four chickens in their backyard.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for a person with low income to eat healthily,” Cowley said. Allowing residents to raise their own chickens will give them access to an inexpensive and healthy source of organic food.

Poor diet has societal costs, he notes, specifically increased health care costs.

“Good food is good preventative medicine,” Cowley said.

“This reacquaints people with where their food comes from, and it helps give them a greater connection with the environment.”

Cowley, who lives outside the urban boundary in east Maple Ridge, keeps 26 chickens for egg laying purposes, and another 100 for meat.

“Four chickens is enough to give you around a dozen eggs per week,” he said.

“That’s going to save you $4 to $5, and the eggs are of a higher quality than you get in the store.

“For some families, that’s significant.”

Back yard chicken raising was a common practice a hundred years ago, but the industrial model of food production replaced the need to produce one’s food, Cowley notes.

“But the industrial model of food production is not performing as well as it should,” he said.

“The food supply chain is changing because the cost of oil is making the cost of food go up.”

Some breeds, like the bantam, have been specifically bred to be small in size and suitable for backyard raising. The chickens generally don’t make much noise, and wouldn’t pose a nuisance to neighbours, according to Cowley.

However, backyard chickens could become prey to wild animals, including bears, raccoons, and feral cats, as well as eagles, or hawks.

Cowley said a secure enclosure is needed to protect the birds, and the City of Vancouver’s bylaw lays out specific requirements for such structures.

But if it can be done in Vancouver, it can be done here, Cowley said.

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

“The bylaws are out there, we just need to make them work here.”