You can’t have backyard chickens in Lake Cowichan?
There was some astonishment in our newsroom when we saw the item on the town’s finance and administration committee meeting earlier this month.
Lake Cowichan is, like many communities in the Cowichan Valley, proudly small, rural, and full of character.
Many of us took it for granted that in such a setting backyard chickens were already allowed for residents who want to raise them.
But such is not the case.
We expect the arguments against, and the reasons they have been outlawed within town boundaries to date, are the same as they were in the City of Duncan, which only in recent years updated its bylaws to allow the keeping of hens.
Opponents often voice concern about the birds and their feed attracting vermin — though proponents of bringing hens legally rightly point out that many people already have bird feeders stuffed with grain for wild birds in their yards now. So that argument doesn’t hold water.
Proponents aren’t even asking for roosters, which is where any noise complaints would come in.
A chicken coop will not increase unwanted pests. Sure, there will have to be some bylaw enforcement to make sure of it, but that’s true of anything.
Anyone who has piles of debris in their yard or stacked in front of the garage or filling the shed to the brim so that you can’t actually step inside runs just as much risk of providing habitat for rats, mice and insects.
Just like any small pet, owners would have to provide a shelter of some sort or risk predators making off with their flock.
But it’s not anymore dangerous than folks who let the fruit drop from their trees, thereby providing a feast for bears.
What is gained by allowing backyard hens is far more important.
Keeping some hens is a great way for people save some cash on eggs — which is what most people raising backyard chickens use them for.
A properly maintained shelter won’t cause a stench to infuriate neighbours, and droppings can make good manure.
It’s a great way to increase food sustainability with little effort or problem.
Which is probably why backyard chickens are already allowed in Duncan, Nanaimo and Port Alberni, to say nothing of New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Victoria.
For decades now people moved away from having a connection to where their food comes from. Not anymore.
Now there’s a growing movement to put in veggie gardens, plant fruit trees and yes, stick your hand under your own backyard chicken for an egg.
Progress is being redefined. It’s a bandwagon worth being on.