Amanda Smith, garden coordinator at Maples Discovery Garden in Langey Township, cradles Rhonda, a two-and-a-half month old hen. Rhonda was the only adolescent chicken left in the garden after someone stole her two siblings. Smith said the garden began having trouble with 'continuous' petty theft when a group of homeless people moved into the woods in the undeveloped lot next door to the 200 Street location.

Petty theft problem plagues co-op garden in Langley Township

Two young chickens stolen in latest incident, residents of homeless camp suspected

Amanda Smith discovered the apparent theft on Thursday morning, when she went to look at the three juvenile chickens in their coop at the Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op in Langley Township.

Two of the two-and-a-half month old chickens, a white-feathered male and black-feathered female, were gone.

Only the brown hen, named Rhonda, remained.

There was no evidence that an animal had breached the wire fence around the pen.

Smith said the garden has been plagued by thefts for the last two years, ever since a group of homeless people set up camp in the densely forested undeveloped lot next to the gardens in the 7700 block of 200 Street.

Since then, plants have been pulled from garden plots, a fruit tree was stripped bare and an entire garden shed and its contents (with the exception of some marked tools) were stolen last December.

“It’s a continuous problem,” Smith said.

“But this was the one thing I naively thought would never happen.”

The theft doesn’t make much sense because the birds are too young to lay eggs and too small to make much of a meal, Smith said.

“Maybe they’re going to sell them.”

The remaining chicken is too young and small to safely live with the other adult chickens, so Smith took Rhonda home with her temporarily and said arrangements will be made to pen the bird with its mother until it is old enough and big enough to manage on its own.

Volunteer Natalia Burka said there have been “countless thefts” since the garden’s new neighbours arrived.

After the theft of the garden shed and tools, Burka said there were several attempts at theft-proofing the premises, but without much success.

“We purchased a lock and installed it on our gate to help keep thieves out,” Burka said.

“That didn’t work because our lock got tampered with and inevitably broke, so we were locked out of our own garden. Multiple locks later, we gave up.”

The Maples Discovery Gardens Co-operative (MDGC) is a non-profit community service cooperative that was incorporated in May, 2009.

The Maples presently offers over 50 community garden plots (plus raised beds for access to people with physical challenges) that have been developed and are offered for seasonal lease.

There is also a greenhouse that supports other community horticultural projects with table rentals available.

Langley Times

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