NCES member Erin Wilkins advocated for urban chickens in Revelstoke during a May 8 presentation to Revelstoke council.

Backyard chickens on Revelstoke council back burner

There won't be any legal spring chickens this season – council hears urban chicken presentation, but possible bylaw must wait

Revelstoke council took in a presentation highlighting the upside of urban chickens at their May 8 meeting. But following the briefing, the mayor said council won’t likely hatch a chicken bylaw until next year.

Erin Wilkins of the North Columbia Environmental Society presented the local environmental organization’s views on backyard chickens and chicken coops.

It was based on a PowerPoint presentation you can read for yourself (item 5a) here.

Wilkins said a recent survey conducted by the NCES showed broad support for urban chickens: 85 per cent of 79 respondents said they should be allowed in residential neighbourhoods. 64 per cent said they would be happy if their neighbours had chickens. “The community support is definitely behind it,” Wilkins said.

The main thrust of the urban chicken movement is to create local, sustainable and secure food: “Backyard chickens fit with the progressive local food movement while also tying Revelstoke to its rich past (when our small downtown was surrounded by farms),” the report states. “Chickens are a pleasant window into the past and a sustainable path into the future.”

In her presentation, Wilkins said the NCES’s research into chickens was designed to address community concerns. “Chickens, because they are considered a farm animal, oftentimes people are concerned that they are going to be noisy, there’s going to be an increase in smell, disease, and – unique to Revelstoke – [concerns about] the bears.”

Wilkins’ presentation said noise, smell, disease and bears were, in fact “fowl misconceptions” – if the bylaw regulating backyard chickens was done right.

Doing it right means a bylaw that includes the following actions:

– limits the number of birds per household to just a few

– regulates noisy roosters out of the picture

– introduces fees and permits for chickens

– regulates coop sizes

– restricts slaughtering of chickens, possibly banning slaughter on residential properties

– regulates where a coop can be placed on the property and how close to neighbours it can be

– regulates food storage and cleanliness

– dictates that chickens be provided with veterinary care

What about the bears?

One specific local concern about chicken coops is bears. Isn’t having chickens and eggs in town just too much of a temptation for them?

Not so, says Wilkins. “Actually it’s not the chickens themselves that the bears would be attracted to,” she told council, saying bears are actually attracted to chicken feed. Properly storing and handling the food could mitigate the bear issue.

Wilkins said there are about nine families in Revelstoke who are currently keeping chickens.

She suggested the community could partner with Okanagan College to provide chicken rearing courses to help educate owners.

***

So, what’s next? The city’s planning department has been engaging with chicken advocates since at least 2011, but it doesn’t look like there will be legal spring chickens in Revelstoke this year.

Planning director John Guenther said recent OCP changes include new references to sustainable urban agriculture. “We are hoping to put this in the new Unified Development Bylaw for reference,” he said. “Obviously it would need a lot of public review.” Guenther said that would take place in the coming months. After that, a possible bylaw would have to be drafted and debated.

More to the point, mayor David Raven said that city hall was busy and it would likely take until 2013 before the bylaw is completed. “It’s not high on our priority list,” Raven said.

 

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