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BCSPCA’s proposed limits on chickens go too far: urban food advocate

Capping the number of hens at 12 an unnecessary solution, Aaren Topley tells Victoria council
A backyard chicken inspects food near its backyard coop behind a home in Fernwood. News file photo

Victoria council is still cluck-clucking about what to do about chickens in the city.

In a committee of the whole meeting Thursday morning, councillors heard the opinion of Aaren Topley, co-chair of the Victoria Urban Food Table. He was speaking in response to proposed changes to the BCSPCA animal responsibility bylaw recommendations that, in part, seek to limit the number of animals allowed on any one property.

The City of Victoria’s consideration of changes to its own animal control bylaw coincides with a neighbourhood dispute in the Rockland area, where a building owner wanted to bring in 99 chickens to help feed her tenants.

“However long we’ve had a council, we’ve never had a chicken bylaw. So for bylaws to be created because of one issue in 100 years … it’s a little bit ridiculous,” Topley said with a laugh.

He made four related recommendations for councillors to consider:

• A rejection of the newly proposed BCSPCA bylaws, with the exception that chicken food should be kept in secure storage, and that there is timely removal of debris, food and manure from the coop

• A rejection on a 12-hen limitation, saying it’s too restrictive and suggesting instead that an application process be put in place for people interested in owning 30 or more chickens.

• A rejection of the idea that chicken owners must live on the property, for instances such as shared chickens or school-raised chicks, and

• That more resources and information are provided to the public on the benefits of urban hens, and on good hen keeping practices.

Topley’s original proposal was to limit the number of chickens to 30 per property, but he conceded that 12 to 15 birds is probably a more reasonable amount for people to have without needing an application.

“We represent a lot of individuals interested in urban farming,” he said, “and the key message is about good chicken care practices.”

City staff are currently working on recommendations for proposed bylaw changes, a report on which is expected to come back to committee of the whole at a later date.

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