City Council passes by-law to allow urban hens

By Chad Klassen
June 14, 2016 - 10:10pm Updated: June 15, 2016 - 12:29pm

KAMLOOPS — A small flock of urban hen supporters had reason to crow aloud outside City Hall on Tuesday night, knowing they've won a nearly 10-year battle to bring chickens to city backyards. 

WATCH: Full report by Chad Klassen

"The biggest benefit of having urban hens will be food security, providing food on your plate that you grew in your backyard," says Bonnie Klohn from Kamloops Food Policy Council. "But it also means the community coming together around food security."

With a 6-3 vote in Council Chambers on Tuesday night, residents on a 4,000 square foot property, the size of a typical single-family home, are now permitted to house between two and five hens, but no roosters.

Voting for the new by-law were Councillors Marg Spina, Tina Lange, Donovan Cavers, Arjun Singh, Dieter Dudy and Denis Walsh. 

"We heard from the community loud and clear that this is something they really wanted," says Lange. "It was No. 1 that came out of all the public consultations the staff did. People not necessarily wanting to have hens, as Marg Spina said. Quite frankly, I don't think I'm ever going to have chickens either, but I respect that my neighbours make that choice to have animals on their property."

On the other side, Mayor Peter Milobar, and Councillors Ken Christian and Pat Wallace, voted against the by-law. 

A few in the crowd spoke out against it as well, citing noise and smell as deterants in any neighbourhood. Jacki Andersen is already living beside a property with chickens in Westsyde. She's disappointed in the decision.

"I was hoping this wasn't going to be for everyone else," says Andersen. "I was hoping that when we moved into Kamloops that we could have the freedom of not having to live in a barnyard. People say they're going to look after their animals. People say they're going to look after their cats and dogs, and they don't. It's a far cry when we start having chickens."  

But Spina doesn't believe everyone is going to rush out to get chickens, given the by-law is in place.

"I'm not expecting to see a huge upload of people that are going to suddenly want to raise a chicken," says Spina. "There may be 100 or 200 people in this city of 90,000." 

Frank Ritcey from WildSafe BC addressed the issue of electric fencing, which city staff had initially recommended. Ritcey, who did not take sides, cited problems in municipalities like Clearwater that have urban hens but no electric fencing, arguing that when a bear breaks down a chicken coop once it will happen repeatedly. 

Ritcey's concerns were not addressed in the final vote. 

Expert: Don't play chicken with dangerous wildlife