Penticton chef hatches plan for backyard chicken coops

City staff will be conducting research over the next month and hopes to have a report ready for council sometime in November

Pentictonites may someday be frying and poaching eggs they collect right out of their own backyards, thanks to the efforts of a local chef.

You might think a top chef was lobbying for people to be able to keep hens in their back yard because he wanted the freshest eggs possible. But Chris Remington, head chef at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, said the reason is a lot closer to home. His goal is education.

“The whole point behind this was to have my kids have an understanding of where food comes from. I have a garden in my house, which they plant with me and they watch their seeds grow,” said Remington. “Chickens are sort of the only thing, being in the urban setting that we are, that we can have a chance of having.”

Last week, at a meeting of Penticton’s agricultural advisory committee, Remington brought forward a 150-name petition supporting the idea of the city allowing residents to keep up to five backyard hens for the purpose of egg laying, with no roosters or meat birds.

“I am not looking for people to have meat-producing birds, I am not looking for people to do backyard slaughtering. This is for people to have egg-producing birds,” Remington said, noting that this is a personal project, that the eggs couldn’t be used commercially.

“We cannot use them in the restaurant. They have to be graded by a government facility and that is not something that we are getting into,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and we would have to produce a lot of eggs to make it worthwhile.”

Remington’s petition to the committee was supported by initial research from staff looking at how other communities that have allowed backyard hens are dealing with it.

“It varied, everything from henhouse sizes, some towns had you register, some didn’t,” said Remington. “On the average, it’s four to five hens per household, I think West Van has 10, which is probably a little too much.”

The agriculture committee passed it on to council with a recommendation that the city investigate trying out backyard hens on a limited basis. The motion was supported by the majority of councillors, including Wes Hopkin.

“It didn’t seem like there was a lot of good reason for why these animals would be any more disruptive than dogs that bark or cats that happen to run around the neighbourhood and use gardens for litter boxes,” said Hopkin.

Anthony Haddad, director of development services for the city, will be conducting research over the next month and hopes to have a report ready for council sometime in November.

“There are a number of communities dealing with it all over B.C. and across Canada, so we are going to give council an analysis of what that would mean in terms of bylaw enforcement,” said Haddad, who supports the idea of an initial pilot project. “The interesting concept that came up was a pilot program to see what issues exist in our community, which is different from a lot of other communities dealing with this.”