Is urban chicken farming a good fit for White Rock?
Council has endorsed Coun. Helen Fathers’ motion to ask staff for a report, following a delegation from a resident seeking an amendment to the city’s animal control bylaw to allow small-scale poultry-raising in backyards.
Cheryl Kendrick, who appeared before council electronically on Feb. 8, received an interested and receptive response to her case for city-sanctioned roosts.
“Backyard hens are an excellent opportunity for residents to get involved in local urban food production,” she said. “Urban chickens allow for food security, sustainability and community education.”
Kendrick – who came to the virtual meeting armed with research she had done on chicken farming allowed in jurisdictions across the Lower Mainland – said, in response to a question from Coun. Anthony Manning, that she envisions residents raising the chickens as egg-producing family pets in combination with “permaculture gardening.”
She said she could see home-based operations having between four and six chickens.
“Some have eight – but I’d be happy with four,” she said, noting that this is the minimum suggested by other municipalities. “They’re very social creatures and they do better with groups as opposed to one or two.”
Coun. Christopher Trevelyan wondered whether her research had suggested a practical range of lot sizes.
Kendrick noted that backyard hen lots in New Westminster start at a minimum 6,000 square feet, but added she was surprised to learn that Vancouver has no minimum size restrictions, provided that coops are sufficiently distanced from homes and property lines.
Raising chickens would have other benefits than food production, she suggested, particularly with greater numbers of family members staying at home during pandemic times.
“There’s something very primal and healing when working with animals in the land,” she said. “And as awareness of health becomes so important – as it does now – the desire to incorporate chickens with backyard gardening is growing. To be able to cultivate and grow one’s own food is both good for the health of the people and the planet.”
Kendrick said surrounding municipalities have already established these healthy community practices by allowing backyard poultry.
“Cities such as New Westminster pioneered urban farming, allowing up to eight hens on residential properties since the late 1960s,” she said.
“Vancouver welcomed chickens in 2010, North Vancouver (has) since 2012, also allowing eight hens per single-family residence. West Vancouver and Surrey allowed backyard hens since 2016, with West Van allowing up to six hens and Surrey allowing four hens on residential lots 7,200 square feet and larger.”
Kendrick said she has also investigated other municipalities’ experience with the policy.
“I recently spoke with a bylaw officer from Surrey to inquire about any potential issues with backyard chickens. I was told that over the years they’ve had no major issues, just minor concerns regarding registration reminders, and a few maintenance calls from neighbours saying they want to have (some) things done…they’ve found the backyard chickens to be overall a success.
“Fortunately, because these cities have been doing this for so long…they are offering years of experience, with information that can be found on their websites. The pros of backyard hens outweigh any minor issues that can easily be rectified.”
Chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero – in asking for council direction on the matter – described it as “a great initiative,” noting that he was CAO in Ladysmith, B.C. when it was was working on a similar proposal for keeping backyard poultry.
He warned, however, that a necessary bylaw and zoning amendments will “take a considerable amount of time and consultation – it’s not a project we can do in a week.”