Just got a hold of this: a fact sheet produced by the Food Policy Council with extended info regarding their proposal to allow chickens in the city.
Allowing Vancouverites to Raise Chickens Fact Sheet
What are we proposing? That Vancouver City Council approve the amendment of By-law no. 9433 (the “By-law”), which prohibits the keeping of various kinds of livestock within city limits, to allow residents to raise poultry. We would recommend thinking a little bit beyond just chickens and allow the keeping of poultry (or “fowl”) as some urban residents might find other species (like quail) more interesting or appropriate to raise. (This has been successfully done in Seattle.)
Why? Because a number of Vancouver residents would like to keep poultry for eggs, and the City, its residents and the birds themselves stand to benefit.
What are the benefits? Benefits to the City:
- the Mayor and Council have a stated goal of making Vancouver “the greenest city in the world”. Local, sustainable food sources are a key part of that goal – and nothing is more sustainable and local than allowing families to grow their own food (including eggs)
- a lower carbon footprint (no transportation)
- increased food security for the City and its residents
- reduced pesticides and antibiotics in our food chain.
Benefits to residents:
- an inexpensive, wholesome, quality, healthy alternative to commercially produced eggs in which an array of chemical agents are used in feedstuffs
- a satisfying hobby
- a natural pest control and a ready source of fertilizer for gardens
- a connection to where food comes from (versus a Styrofoam container in a supermarket cooler)
- a great educational opportunity for city kids who can be exposed to a whole range of outstanding learning experiences, including the often-lost idea of where food comes from
- eggs to share with neighbours!
Benefits to the birds:
- FAR more humane treatment, including a better environment and life than in commercial laying operations
- access to space (commercial laying hens have a space the size of a piece of paper to live out their lives)
- access to the outdoors and fresh air (which a tiny percentage of commercial birds have access to)
- a diet/environment free of antibiotics/pesticides (evidently all of the organic poultry feed in Washington state is imported from B.C.)
- less chance of disease outbreaks.
Would Vancouver be alone in this? Do any other cities allow this? Many cities in the U.K. allow poultry keeping – it’s a widespread practice with a conservative estimate of half a million households keeping birds. In the U.S., a number of major cities including New York NY, Seattle Washington, Portland Oregon, Arlington, Virginia and Madison, Wisconsin (all have active backyard poultry promotions. Here in B.C., Victoria, Surrey, Richmond, New Westminster and Burnaby all allow the practice.
What about the noise? Chickens generally have a low clucking sound, described by many as soothing. However they do have a louder cluck after laying their eggs, which usually happens between 9 AM and noon. Hens have up to a couple of dozen separate calls, of which this is the loudest. However, the noise from hens is generally below that of dogs and other pets, and any possible noise infractions would be covered under existing city by-laws.
Couldn’t this result in animal cruelty? No more than with any current pets (dogs, cats, fish). Allowing backyard poultry will actually REDUCE cruelty, as fewer eggs will be obtained from inhumane commercial egg operations. This is a far more humane option.
What about avian flu? All outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in western countries have been in commercial flocks of highly inbred strains of poultry with relatively weak immune systems. All birds are susceptible to the avian influenza virus, but in small flocks there is an extremely small opportunity for the virus to mutate into a pathogenic form (pathogenicity refers to the ability of the virus to produce disease). Backyard flocks have much stronger natural immune systems which tend to fight off any infections naturally.
In Summary A by-law change would allow residents to practice a fun and beneficial hobby that’s a source of local, healthful food, with real benefits to the City, the birds, and the environment. Allowing residents to keep poultry would not present a significant break from what is currently permitted within the City of Vancouver nor would it introduce any new infrastructure or support requirements (like avian veterinary care) because they already exist for those who are keeping the registered homing pigeons, canaries, budgerigars, parrots, parakeets and exotic birds of all species allowed pursuant to By-law no. 9433, Section 7.5.