Steve Reed and his family moved to Pitt Meadows from Vancouver with their five chickens, but after city council cancelled a pilot project, they have 60 days to get rid of what are essentially pets.
Reed is critical, saying city hall put no effort into the backyard hens pilot program.
He was born and raised in Vancouver, but moved to his wife Brenda’s hometown of Pitt Meadows in spring of 2014. A letter they wrote to the city was part of the impetus to start a backyard hens program last fall. They outlined the benefits of producing food such as eggs locally, reducing waste, and showing children where food comes from.
The Reeds have five hens, and during the summer get five or six eggs per day from them.
“We had these chickens for years,” he said, explaining that his six-year-old son Jonah treats them like pets.
“They’re friendly birds. He can pull them out and sit on a swing with them, and they sit on your lap.”
But they’re not welcome in Pitt Meadows.
In June, council voted not to allow urban backyard hens, ending a pilot program that began in September 2014.
“Based on the low number of participants in the program, and the numerous complaints received regarding backyard hens, staff recommends discontinuing the program,” council was told in a report at the time.
Only two participants registered their flocks for the one-year pilot project, and city staff was aware of two others who kept urban hens during the trial, but did not register with the city. The pilot began in September 2014.
The city bylaws department received 13 complaints from the neighbours of these flocks, regarding bad smells, pests, noise, and rats being attracted to the chicken feed.
Reed was one of the two registered participants, and if there were complaints about his flock, he thinks the city should have contacted him directly. He might have been able to address their concerns.
“They have never talked to me about any complaints,” he said.
“How hard is it to communicate with two people?”
He did a freedom of information request to see the complaints, and received only two written copies, with identifying information about the complainants and the flock owners blacked out.
Reed said while Pitt Meadows labels itself “The Natural Place,” and backyard hens would seem to fit that profile, but “the city has done zero work on this project,” he said.
“Clearly the new city council did not have the keeping of backyard hens on their agenda.”
Coun. Bill Dingwall’s grandson has been at the Reed home, and played with the hens. Reed appealed to him.
Dingwall noted that council was united in voting to discontinue the pilot project, based on the public complaints.
“In the end, these are some of the tough decisions council has to make,” said Dingwall. “You’re not going to make everyone happy.”
On Saturday, Reed collected a letter telling him he has two months to remove his chicken coop and birds.
“The only way we will be removing our hens is when all the councillors stand up in chambers and tell our crying six-year-old he has to get rid of his birds because his town delegates did not put any effort into monitoring/communicating/managing the backyard hen pilot project.”