Keeping backyard hens in Penticton will soon be allowed, after the concept was approved this week by council with hardly a squawk.
After the city develops some regulations and policy, expected to be done by May 2016, Penticton residents will be able to keep up to five laying hens in their backyard.
This move comes after an 18-month pilot project with 12 properties, which ended on Nov. 30. When it was first proposed, the concept was the subject of controversy, but planning manager Blake Laven said the negative impacts, like noise and odour from the coops, didn’t materialize.
The regulations are expected to be similar to those for the pilot project, only with more stringent restrictions on hen house construction and a few other factors. As long as they follow the regulations, which will become part of zoning bylaws, property owners will be allowed to keep hens.
“We are not proposing a permitting system,” said Laven. “Just like getting a pet, you would have to follow the regulations. We wouldn’t keep track of them, we wouldn’t require them to take out a permit from the city.”
Of the 10 participants that made it all the way through the pilot – two participants moved away—Laven said only one had a neighbour that felt they were being negatively affected by the noise.
“Chickens are not silent. But it is a much lower register and less jarring than a dog barking or some of the other sounds you might hear in the neighbourhood.”
According to a survey sent to chicken owners and their neighbours, participants in the project were overwhelmingly in favour of continuing the project.
“Responses from the neighbouring residents was quite a bit more mixed with four of the respondents stating that their experience was not positive, and that the program shouldn’t be continued, except on larger properties,” said Laven.
Four of the other respondents said living by chickens was great and the remaining two respondents supported continuing the project, but said there were minor negative effects.
“We felt the pilot was a success overall,” said Laven, who recommended council give the go-ahead for staff to begin work on permanent regulations.
Council voted unanimously to have staff proceed with preparing regulations.