Report soon on backyard chickens

Support already from agricultural advisory committee

If Chris Webster has his way, chickens will be strutting and clucking around in Maple Ridge backyards for those residents who enjoy fresh eggs.

To make his case for a bylaw allowing the birds, and maybe even quail and pigeons, Webster told council Monday that roosters, not chickens, are the noisy ones.

And when it comes to disease, the small numbers of backyard chickens minimize outbreaks of avian flu.

Enclosures also should be skunk and raccoon proof, he added.

He may not have to wait long before council decides on whether to follow Surrey, New Westminster, Richmond and Vancouver in allowing the birds.

“Urban chickens do seem to be coming to a council table near you,” said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

The agricultural advisory committee supports the idea and staff are writing a report on the topic.

Planner Diana Hall said staff are studying how other cities have handled the issue.

“No roosters is definitely a common theme.”

Chickens produce eggs without roosters around, council heard.

“We do have to look at some concerns around it,” Hall said.

A bylaw could base the number of chickens allowed on the size of the yard, she said.

Decisions would also have to be made about which areas – urban, rural, suburban or agricultural – the chickens would be allowed.

In the case of an outbreak of avian flu, “people may have to have their chickens destroyed.”

And there have to be rules around storage of feed which can attract animals, “and, of course, rats.

“There are pluses and minuses, so we have to look at this carefully.”

Staff will give an outline of the issue to council this spring which then later will decide whether to ask staff to write a bylaw.

Maple Ridge has passed a bylaw allowing beekeeping on large lots but has had few inquiries.

“I think we’ll find that backyard chickens will be the same thing.”