It has been almost two years since Penticton city council first started looking at the possibility of backyard hens, after a group of citizens brought forward a 200-signature petition calling for the change in city bylaws.
They had many good reasons supporting their idea: food security, education and, of course, fresh eggs were at the top of the list.
Along the way to council approving a backyard hen pilot project, a lot of good objections were raised as well. Opponents of the idea, some of them on city council, were concerned about noise, smell and the possibility of attracting predators or rodents, either of which might find a new food supply for themselves in the chicken feed or the hens.
In this case, both sides might be right. Certainly each side has their strong supporters on council, which at one point led to the concept of backyard hens being dismissed, only to resurface again this year.
The 12 applicants that came forward to take part in the program are likely to find out a few things for themselves. Super fresh eggs might be wonderful, but those eggs aren’t free. Building the coop, buying feed, paying the vet, hiring the neighbour’s kid to feed the hens while you are away for the weekend, not to mention your own hours spent building and maintaining the coop and caring for the chickens all come at a cost that makes us wonder if it wouldn’t be more fun and cheaper to head down to the farmers’ market Saturday morning to purchase your eggs.
We will have to wait until the end of the 18-month pilot project getting underway now whether the pros outweigh the cons of allowing backyard hens. But that, we would like to remind the opponents, is the purpose for having a pilot project, to test the waters.