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Chickens come home to roost in North Van

District of North Vancouver residents will soon be able to keep backyard chickens – if they’re willing to put up with some rather onerous rules.

District of North Vancouver residents will soon be able to keep backyard chickens – if they’re willing to put up with some rather onerous rules.

After months of debate over the benefits versus potential for the chicken coops to attract predators and vermin, district council voted Monday night to allow up to six hens per single-family yard.

Chicken coops must be at least two metres high but no bigger than five square metres in area.

There are minimum setbacks from the property line and the chickens must have access to shade, direct sunlight and protection from the wind –and drainage, although their manure cannot be allowed to enter the district’s storm drain system or municipal sewage system.

Under the bylaw, chicken coops must be surrounded by an electric fence designed and maintained to the standards published by the WildSafeBC. That portion of the bylaw came at the request of the North Shore Black Bear Society.

Amateur chicken farmers must pay an annual fee and have their coops inspected by district staff once before the chickens move in and then annually after that.

The coops must also be designed so vermin cannot live in them, under them or within their walls, the bylaw states.

Owners can be fined for killing a chicken, burying a chicken or failing to properly dispose of a dead chicken within one day.

Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn said the rules amount to a “spaghetti of bureaucracy” that are so onerous to comply with, few people would bother trying.

But the majority on council felt there was enough local benefit to justify a change in the rules.

“It respects and honours a strongly felt need by a large or at least a significant group of North Vancouver District residents who feel this is important to their way of life, to what they want to accomplish,” said Coun. Jim Hanson. “To deny these people the right to do this relatively innocuous act of having chickens and raising their own eggs is, from my point of view, to encroach on their liberties, on their way of life.”

Coun. Mathew Bond said the addition of a few chicken coops would be only an “incremental” increase in wildlife attractants compared to all the other things that currently draw bears into backyards – bird feeders, garbage, barbecues, pet food, fruit trees.

Coun. Lisa Muri said the rules strike the right balance to ensure the handful of people who want chickens are responsible. She also pointed out there is a long history of chickens on the North Shore that some may have forgotten.

“I think there were more chickens when I was a little girl and my grandma lived on Panomara Drive than there are going to be now,” she said.

But Coun. Roger Bassam, who was joined by MacKay-Dunn in voting against the bylaw, warned against relying on nostalgic ideas about backyard hens. That was “same era when we shot bears that came into the community,” he said.

“I do recognize very much that chickens are a wildlife attractant. I have seen the YouTube videos of hen hutches being destroyed and chickens being consumed by bears,” he said. “I just cannot get my head around introducing a wildlife attractant, even with a permit, even with electric fences, even with all of these conditions.”

The district now joins the City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver in allowing backyard chickens, after lobbying by the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK).