Pitt Meadows to discuss backyard hens

Council directed staff to plan a public information session and conduct survey.

Pitt Meadows resident Wendy Rairdan would like to have backyard chickens.

Pitt Meadows resident Wendy Rairdan would like to have backyard chickens.

Pitt Meadows will be asking residents for feedback before it considers allowing chickens in backyards within the city core.

Council directed staff to plan a public information session to share just what a change in rules would entail and gather comment via a survey.

Pitt Meadows currently allows poultry in agricultural and rural residential zones, but prohibits hens in its urban core.

“I’m kind of sitting on the fence on this one,” said Mayor Deb Walters, unsure whether to support a bylaw amendment.

Walters says the city is aware that there are a few residents who are breaking the rules by having chickens, so it might be time to bring them into compliance.

Currently, Vancouver, North Vancouver, New Westminster, Saanich, Oak Bay and Colwood allow backyard hens in single-family residential zones, with restrictions on the number of hens, as well as the size and location of coops.

Surrey is part-way through a one-year pilot project, while Maple Ridge is discussing the issue this week with its agricultural advisory committee.

Wendy Rairdan wrote to council in 2012 to ask them to change the bylaw and is pleased the city is finally moving on to the next step.

“I’m glad we are going to be getting input for from the community because it has to hopefully work for everybody,” Rairdan said.

“We are not recreating the wheel. Big cities all across North America have done it. So if a big city can do it, I’m sure a farming community can do it.”

Pitt Meadows amended a bylaw in 2012 to allow residents to keep backyard beehives.

In January, council received a second letter from Steven Reed and Brenda McLure, who are considering a move from Vancouver to Pitt Meadows but were surprised the city does not currently allow backyard hens its core. They keep hens in their Vancouver backyard.

“The chickens have provided us many positive outcomes and no negative ones,” Reed and McLure said in a letter, noting that Vancouver, in its first two years of changing its bylaw, had 74 registered coops with zero complaints.

“In a world where food sustainability is a rising concern, a chicken coop in one’s back yard beside a vegetable garden is a great way to make a small impact.”

A staff report to council points out that allowing residents to raise their own chickens will give them access to an inexpensive and healthy source of organic food. Other advantages include a reduction in food waste by feeding it to chickens and using chicken manure for composting or to garden.

Staff might even investigate the merits of a “hen registry.”