EDITORIAL: Love ‘em or hate ‘em chickens coming to Penticton

It seems like the community is a little divided over chickens.

Recently, Penticton city council gave the green light for city staff to start planning a pilot project to allow residents to keep chickens in their backyard. Almost immediately complaints were heard about noise and odour, matched by those who wanted to know when they could start keeping some egg-layers in their backyard.

Council was equally divided. While some supported the concept, other felt there was no need for individuals to keep their own chickens in a community where residents could already access fresh eggs in areas zoned for agricultural use.

Coun. Wes Hopkin took the argument a step further, wondering if city council had any right to tell people what they could or couldn’t keep in their backyard. While council should and does have that responsibility, in the interests of smoothing the social fabric between neighbours and indeed the entire community, in this case Hopkin has a point.

To prevent a homeowner from keeping chickens simply because people are able to buy eggs at stores or the farm gate not only misses the point about self-sufficiency and security of a local food supply, it is simply taking government prerogatives too far, and is another step on the path to a nanny state. There are certainly questions about the feasibility of keeping chickens in an urban environment, questions that hopefully will be answered through the pilot project. Noise, odour, disease are all unknowns and possible complications, hence the need for a trial.

But the same could be said of any animals, dogs and cats, depending on how they are cared for. Who hasn’t been bothered by a neighbour’s noisy dog? This is why the community has regulations to govern how owners are to care for and keep their animals. It will be the same for backyard hens.

Hopefully, when the trial parameters are brought back to council for approval and again, when the trial is finished 18 months later, the council of the day will discuss the issues based on not whether they should allow people to, but whether the problems caused by backyard hens had an effect on the greater community.

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