At the end of August Jon and I visited the PNE with the kids. While we were there we came across the Vancooper. It’s a custom-built chicken coop for backyard chickens. The maker advertises it this way:
It’s the bylaw-compliant, pest-defieant, not-too-giant, and exceptionally pliant coop for the self-reliant and epicurious client.
I was smitten. Unfortunately for me, however, unlike the City of Vancouver, the municipalities here in the Tri-Cities don’t allow backyard chickens. This begs the question – if Vancouver can do it, why can’t we?
I had a brief chat with Port Moody Councillor Diana Dilworth and Coquitlam Councillor Selina Robinson. Both reported that backyard chickens are not currently allowed in their cities. They also reported that as of right now, there’s no movement to change that. However, if enough local residents started asking for them, it’s possible that the bylaws could be changed. A brief conversation with local blogger Laura Thomas suggests that the situation is the same in the City of Port Coquitlam.
The City of Vancouver changed its bylaws to allow backyard chickens in 2010. They have a number of rules to ensure that the chickens are safe, and that they don’t become a nuisance. Here are some of the basic rules around owning chickens in that city:
- You may own up to four hens, four months or older, per lot
- No roosters are allowed
- Other livestock and fowl, such as ducks, turkeys and goats, are not allowed
- You may not sell the eggs, meat or manure for commercial purposes
- You may not slaughter hens in your backyard
There are also some rules around the minimum amount of space for each chicken, and so on.
The City of Vancouver is not the only local municipality that allows backyard chickens. We have a friend who has backyard chickens in New Westminster, where they’ve been legal for decades. In Surrey they’re allowed on lots that are at least one acre in size. And in North Vancouver, a movement is afoot to allow the birds.
The reasons that people keep backyard chickens are pretty much what you would expect – they want the eggs, they want to promote food security, and they enjoy them. While it’s certainly the case that steps need to be taken to ensure that the chickens don’t attract pests, and that they’re housed properly, this is the same as for any other pet. In the City of Vancouver, in just under two years 74 chicken owners registered, and there were zero complaints. Between the fact that most people carefully consider the decision to have chickens, and the city’s bylaws, the system has been working well.
Here in the Tri-Cities there certainly are people who are already keeping chickens. As long as no one complains, everything is more or less okay. However, if any neighbours aren’t happy, the illegal chickens can be seized. Any time and money you’ve invested in creating a coop, feeding them and so on is lost. This obviously dissuades many people who would otherwise like to keep the birds.
If backyard chickens are working well in other municipalities, perhaps it’s time to consider them here in the Tri-Cities. It would take a committed group of local citizens to advocate for the change. If the will exists, then I believe that local municipalities would eventually follow suit.
What do you think? Would you consider backyard chickens? Have you had experiences – good or bad – with urban hens? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.