Penticton backyard hen project finally off the ground

Council approves pilot project for 12 applicants to raise egg-laying hens right at home

Penticton’s backyard hens trial is finally off the ground.

The 18-month trial program attracted 12 applicants, which city council voted 5-3 in favour of giving them go ahead to start keeping egg-laying hens in their backyards, with Couns. Katie Robinson, John Vassilaki and Helena Konanz opposed.

Konanz, in particular, has been opposed to the project since it was introduced, contributing to a tie vote that caused the proposition to fail when it was brought before council last year. She was concerned that some of the participants had already been keeping hens since last year and were disputing fines levied by the city.

“If they are involved in that, I think it is important  to postpone their participation until that is settled,” said Konanz, who has also expressed concern that following complaints and checking on compliance would tax the city’s already overloaded bylaw enforcement department, a concern shared by Robinson.

“This is going to turn into a nightmare for bylaw enforcement,” she said. “Just for the record, I have lived beside chickens, and they are noisy.”

Coun. Judy Sentes was just as firm in her support of the backyard hens project, and wanted to avoid rehashing previous discussions, given that council had already voted to support the pilot project. This discussion, she pointed out, was to confirm the applicants to the program.

“I just want to be careful that we are not getting back into a debate that we have had not once, but twice,” said Sentes.

“She told a small delegation protesting their neighbour’s application that council had already heard strong evidence contrary to concerns of odour, noise and pests due to keeping hens.

“With respect to your concerns, you don’t know that. You don’t there  will be noise, you don’t know there will be unacceptable odour. The purpose of the pilot is to give opportunity for firsthand experience with this scenario,” said Sentes. “Council received a great deal of information in support of positive answers to your questions of concern.”

“I believe we have talked it to death.”

The basic rules are straightforward: a maximum of five hens, no roosters, coops must be set back 1.5 metres from property lines, and applicants agree to remove the hens and coop within 60 days if the pilot project is cancelled.

Coun. Wes Hopkin was concerned that people were focussing on the worst-case scenario.

“I think there is a little bit of a fear. This is something different. Everyone is concerned about the most irresponsible use of this, and I totally agree that would be absolutely terrible,” he said.

“It comes down to do you think people well conduct themselves responsibly and follow the rules of the program.

“At the end of the day, you have to let people be responsible adults.”