Watch out for chickens crossing the road in Qualicum Beach in the coming months.
Town council voted to direct staff to prepare bylaw amendments to authorize a three-year backyard chicken pilot project. Mayor Teunis Westbroek voted against the project.
“I know about chickens. I think we had about 30,000 at my parents farm at one time,” Westbroek said.
The pilot project will begin May 1 and would be open to 30 households for temporary use permits by the town. There would be no cost to the pemit, but it would allow the town to track the uptake of backyard chickens for the purpose of following up and evaluating success at the end of the project.
After the three years, council can determine whether or not they think backyard chickens should be permanently legalized.
Director of planning Luke Sales said multiple other cities, including Nanaimo which is where they based the town guidelines from, permit backyard chickens.
Westbroek said just because other municipalities allow backyard chickens, doesn’t mean Qualicum Beach has to follow.
“Because other communities have it, doesn’t mean we have to have it,” Westbroek said. “We don’t have big box (stores), we don’t have fast food restaurants. It doesn’t mean we have to follow.”
Other guidelines for the town include: up to six chickens or ducks may be kept provided there are no roosters, cocks, cockerels or peacocks, structures for the chickens or ducks must be in accordance with required yard setbacks, diseased chickens or ducks must have the carcass disposed of and chicken or ducks cannot trespass on public propert, private property, unfenced land or released or abandoned in the town.
Sales also added, “No chickens can be housed within a dwelling unit, but I own chickens and I’m not sure why you would do that.”
Westbroek said when the last Quality of Life survey came out, only 30 per cent of the population was in favour of backyard chickens.
Council previously referred the bylaw amendment to the Select Committee on Environment and Sustainability in August 2016 after hearing a presentation from resident Jeannie Shaver.
Shaver presented at a meeting in July 2016, telling council that the amendment is “not only feasible, but beneficial.”
Coun. Anne Skipsey, who was in favour of the bylaw amendment, wondered if local 4-H groups or the Coombs Farmers’ Institute, which is offering classes at the Qualicum Commons in April, would be able to help educate.
Sales said that could be a possibility, but when people come to town hall to receive a permit, it is a chance to make sure they are properly educated.