Backyard chickens back on city council’s platter

Backyard hens are back on the table for Penticton City Council.

The idea was nixed last year in a tie vote, but Coun. Judy Sentes said interest in the idea of keeping egg-laying hens in urban backyards hasn’t dropped off, and she wants council to revisit the idea.

In January 2013, council directed city staff to begin the process of setting up a trial program that would allow participants to keep up to five hens in the backyards of urban sized lots.

Months of planning, however, fizzled away last May when council nixed the plan in a 3-3 tie vote.

Council also heard from two ardent supporters of the urban hen concept, Aaron Quast and Lana Barr, who jumped the gun last year and didn’t wait for official approval before starting their own pilot project.

They’ve been operating an illegal chicken coop since early in 2013, accruing  a number of $100 fines along the way.

Quast told council that once neighbours get used to the advantages of chickens, prejudices would evaporate, and pointed out that beyond the basic health benefits of fresh eggs, there were other advantages including disposing of kitchen waste.

Their manure, unlike dog and cat droppings, can be mixed with garden waste and composted to create high quality fertilizer.

Coun. Helena Konanz remained opposed to even reconsidering the idea, saying the hens might attract predators like coyotes or vermin.

“I think we have had a lot of animal issues lately in this city and this is one more,” she said.

“I have had a lot of calls lately from people lately that are having trouble with rats in their yards.

“I think this is something that might exacerbate that problem.

“I think we don’t need to have those hens inside city limits or on lots that are very small in city limits.”

Sentes said the city already had bylaws in place to cover any misuse or other concerns and the original pilot project specified a maximum of five hens and no roosters.

Coun. Wes Hopkin, however, was more concerned with why Quast and Barr had started before the project was okayed, concerned that if council did okay it, others might not follow the rules of the pilot project.

“The reason we went ahead, we didn’t have chickens before we applied for the pilot project,” said Quast.

“The reason we went ahead is there is a small buying window for chicks.

“You can buy full size chickens year round, but we wanted  to raise them from a chick.

“We would have missed that window and would have literally been sitting  without chickens for most of that pilot project term.

“Once we had them and things went sideways, it was tough to get rid of them.

“It is not something we would normally do.”

Quast and Barr are appealing their fines, with an adjudication session to take place this week, but promised to honour whatever decision was made.

After a six-one vote, with only Konanz opposing Sentes’ motion, council will be reconsidering the backyard hen pilot project at their Mar. 17 regular meeting.


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