Trail council may let backyard chicken request fly

In keeping with the growing trend of urban agriculture across Canada, there may be a coop d’etat already happening in the Silver City.

Shawna Erback was hoping for an egg-cellent response from Trail council that would allow her to keep a few backyard fowl.

Columbia Heights resident Erback, submitted a letter to the city this summer, asking how to obtain a permit to have backyard hens.

However, in keeping with the growing trend of urban agriculture across Canada, there may be a coop d’etat already happening in the Silver City.

“There are so many people who already have hens hidden in their yards in Trail,” explained Erback. “Hopefully someone can review this so that we can have our hens out in the open.”

Although the city’s current animal control leaves no room for cracks in its rules, council is considering taking another look at Erback’s request.

The topic was addressed at the Governance and Operations Committee (GOC) meeting Monday, and Coun. Sean Mackinlay laid down the open-minded approach council chose to take regarding the keeping of cluckers.

“This is something that last came up in 2008,” said Mackinlay. “There is a big change in the general structure of how people get food on a day-to-day basis and we recognize that it’s happening.”

Council recommended staff to research what other municipalities have chosen to do and compile a report for the city to consider in the next few weeks.

“The door is not shut on this,” said Mackinlay, adding, “with micro-agriculture happening what we need to think about is how we will monitor or regulate the situation.”

A well maintained coop that is properly secured will have no odour or predator issues and unlike a dog or cat, the manure can be used in composting,” explained Erback in a letter. “Usually when someone has chickens they also have beautiful gardens as they go hand in hand.”

Chickens fall under the city’s animal control bylaw which has been in place since 1999.

The bylaw replaced an earlier version that also prohibited the keep of horses, cattle, sheep, goats and swine, at least since 1998, said Michelle McIssac, Trail’s corporate administrator.

“There is reference in past council meetings to the keep of chickens in the years of 1978 and 1982,” she said. “It was indicated that the bylaw prohibiting the keep of chickens be upheld, so it would seem that this dates back several decades.”

Since 2005, the City of Vancouver has allowed backyard chickens, citing “to help you get involved in your own food production.”

The bylaw states that in order to keep a chicken coop from being a nuisance to the neighbourhood, a maximum of four hens (no roosters), four months or older is allowed; fowl such as ducks or geese and livestock is not allowed; eggs, meat and manure cannot be used for commercial purposes; and backyard slaughtering is not allowed.

Locally, Rossland is the only municipality that does not regulate backyard chickens, although if someone let them run around the neighbourhood then animal control or wildlife attractant bylaws would be applicable, explained Tracey Butler, Rossland’s CAO. “We ask residents to refrain from having roosters because of the noise, which would be an issue under our Good Neighbour Bylaw.”

Warfield, Montrose and Fruitvale do not allow the keeping of chickens in village limits.

“A 1950’s bylaw says no animals or birds allowed in the village other than household pets,” said Kevin Chartres, Montrose’s chief administrative officer.

On a personal note, Chartres and wife Stacey kept chickens at their home in the outskirts of Fruitvale before moving to Trail. “I am so excited to hear that Trail might consider allowing backyard chickens,” said Stacey. “I really miss having them because they became part of the family and provided us way more fresh eggs than we could eat,” she said. “People think they make a lot of noise, but they don’t. They are quiet and easy to keep.”