Maple Ridge not playing chicken

Holds off on allowing birds in suburban backyards until Pitt Meadows experiment over

Pitt Meadows is conducting a pilot project with backyard chickens.

Pitt Meadows is conducting a pilot project with backyard chickens.

Carol Campos considers chickens companions, on a level with dogs and cats, and wants people to be able to keep them as pets in their Maple Ridge backyards.

“They’re very easy to care for, have great personalities and are quite beautiful.”

In the mornings, they’ll leave their chicken coups to do their chores, eating insects and food scraps and fertilizing the soil, all the while, laying eggs that kids love to collect, she told Maple Ridge council Monday.

“They’re gentle little animals with quirky behaviours and daily routines.”

Campos made a pitch to allow people in residential areas to keep chickens in their backyards, if not in urban areas, at least in the rural ones.

She used to keep chickens, but was told a few years ago by bylaws that her lot must be at least an acre.

“They love to help you with your gardening,” she added.

Campos told council that Vancouver has allowed backyard chickens since 2010, while New Westminster has allowed them since 1967.

Surrey has allowed backyard chickens since 2013 and has about 15 residences keeping the birds, with no complaints so far. Surrey’s even reducing the lot size to 7,200 sq. feet to allow more people to keep them, she added.

Campos addressed one fear – that chickens attract rats – by saying that it’s the chicken feed that attracts rats.

As long as the chicken feed is confined to the chicken coop, which is built with wire embedded 30 centimetres into the soil, there’s no problem. Coops also have to be cleaned daily, just like a litter box, she pointed out.

Council decided not to make any decision, and instead was waiting until a pilot project is completed in Pitt Meadows. That city is trying a one-year test period that ends in September, allowing chickens in backyards on minimum lot sizes of 409 sq. metres (4,400 sq. feet).

A maximum of five chickens are allowed in Pitt Meadows, and none can be roosters. Pitt Meadows also notes that chicken manure can’t go in green waste bins. It must go into the garbage. Chicken manure has to be properly composted for months before it can be used in the garden, it notes.

Based on the results in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge’s agricultural advisory committee will make a recommendation, Coun. Bob Masse told council.