Residents of Courtenay will now be allowed to join a growing movement of urban agriculture as council approved a motion to allow up to six hens in residential lots within the city.
At the July 5 council meeting, council passed a zoning amendment bylaw in order to allow residents to raise hens only in their rear yards throughout the municipality. Roosters are not permitted, and the sale of eggs, manure and other products associated with the keeping of hens is prohibited.
At a public hearing earlier this year, Coun. Doug Hillian said no one spoke, however council did receive 47 written submissions with 31 in favour of the bylaw.
Coun. Manno Theos stated his opposition to the bylaw and noted 10 years ago, a survey went out to city residents in their annual tax notices, and 70 to 80 per cent of respondents opposed the idea of urban chickens.
“In my opinion, I don’t think that feeling has changed over the years … (raising hens) is a lot of work. I saw firsthand how challenging it is to do this and how difficult it is to deal with predators and keeping the area clean.”
Theos also raised concerns about older hens once they stop producing eggs, and what residents can do with their animals as the bylaw prohibits home slaughter.
Matt Fitzgerald, the manager of development planning with the city suggested the municipality work with groups like LUSH Valley Food Action Society to create educational material for folks who chose to raise chickens.
Hillian responded to Theos’ comments and noted he believes the workload involved in responsibly raising hens will deter many residents.
“Some people want to raise their own food and feel connected to it, and I think those are values we do want to support, but I also think we will have people who don’t do a decent job of it and will have some problems, but that’s what it’s about: the responsibility of people, as it is with most of the other aspects of living in communities … in that case, we will have bylaws that we can hopefully rely on.”
Coun. Wendy Morin added there was a suggestion that LUSH or those in rural areas could assist with unwanted hens, and that a recent survey conducted by LUSH was overwhelmingly positive for supporting urban chickens, with many Courtenay residents responding to the survey.
“Chickens naturally clean up your yard. Some people might have a specific experience that’s different … they even eat small rodents, they help soil, expedite compositing and they provide natural insect and weed control – there’s tons and tons of benefits,” she said and added all major cities in Canada allow hens.
Mayor Bob Wells noted he reached out to other mayors across Vancouver Island about the issue and asked how much of their time was taken up with the issue of urban hens.
“All I got was crickets. There’s not a whole lot going on with chickens in municipalities. All that I’ve talked to, it’s not been an issue whatsoever. We have a much stronger nuisance bylaw now; if there’s an issue, it’ll be dealt with.”
The bylaw passed with Theos voting in opposition.