A Pitt Meadows resident says backyard hens didn’t get a fair shake from city hall, and he wants to put the issue back on council’s agenda.
Steve Reed said a bylaws officer recently told him to get rid of the three chickens he has left from his larger flock, which was part of the Backyard Hens Pilot Program that ended more than a year ago.
The result of the pilot was that chickens are restricted to properties zoned agricultural.
Reed’s seven-year-old son Jonah will be forced to say goodbye to Fire-Lightning-Dragon, as he named one of the fuzzy chicks when he was a four-year-old and picked her at the Pitt Meadows Co-op in March of 2013.
But Reed said registered chicken coop owners should have been given a chance to alleviate the concerns of complainants during the pilot.
“There was zero communication. We would have helped them out, if we knew there were problems with it,” he said, adding that a well maintained chicken coop should not smell.
In Pitt Meadows, as with most cities, bylaw enforcement is complaint-driven.
The pilot program started in September 2014 and was supposed to run for a year. However, city hall staff brought the issue back before council in June 2015, three months before its scheduled end, with a recommendation to discontinue the program based on the low number of participants and numerous complaints.
Only two people registered their flocks with the city, and it received 13 complaints from residents. There were three written complaints, and bylaws reported more verbal complaints about rats, flies, odours and decreased property values. Bylaws said all the complaints came from one neighbourhood in the city.
Pitt Meadows’ experience was different than other cities in the province.
Vancouver has approximately 230 backyard chicken coops. Its backyard chicken bylaw came into effect in 2010, and in the first four years there were only 15 complaints.
Vancouver has been joined by Victoria, North Vancouver, New Westminster Nanaimo and Kelowna as B.C. cities allowing backyard chickens.
“It seems only natural that a community with a farming background would allow them,” said Reed.
He contends there are numerous backyard hens in Pitt Meadows, which are not causing problems for neighbours.
According to Pitt Meadows Coun. Janis Elkerton, Reed will need their support.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for him,” she predicted. “He needs more support.”
He can ask council to reconsider the issue, but she said council will need new information to consider.
For Elkerton, the issue of rodents is important, and she has not been able to put out her wild bird feeder this year.
“This year, it has been really bad for rats. That’s the huge issue for me.”
Reed said he has started a petition, and has the names of 100 supporters already.
Bylaws has given him a deadline of this week to either have the issue on a council agenda, or get rid of his birds.