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Backyard chickens now legal as Duncan council adopts roost of strict rules

Dan Hudson harvests free-range eggs lat fall from one of two roosts inside the German-style chicken coop gracing his Duncan backyard. On Monday Duncan council has approved a bylaw that will make chicken coops legal in the city, pending certain restrictions. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Dan Hudson harvests free-range eggs lat fall from one of two roosts inside the German-style chicken coop gracing his Duncan backyard. On Monday Duncan council has approved a bylaw that will make chicken coops legal in the city, pending certain restrictions.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Raising backyard chickens in Duncan is now legal.

After years of debate, council approved several bylaws and a zoning amendment Monday to allow up to six hens per home.

But coop and bird owners must follow strict conditions, or face fines and hen seizures for non-compliance.

Councillor Sharon Jackson applauded the bylaws that reversed the former illegality of raising hens.

But she realized controversial chicken bylaws were opposed by some folks worried about smell, rats, noise and more.

"If you don't keep the chicken in a proper coop, or care for them properly, it can be a $200 fine. If you attack the bylaw officer it's a $2,000 fine."

But Spruce Place resident Alycejoy Blom said some Duncanites were already raising chickens illegally, without penalty.

"I don't like the idea of smell and rats," she said, also concerned about looking at large coops.

But Jackson urged opponents to give chickens a chance.

"I'm happy. This just gives people another option to provide their own food. I really need those with chickens to comply with the bylaw."

Blom was adamant. "Support local farmers and pay $2.50 or $3 for a dozen eggs."

The city's raft of regulations stipulate clean coops, plus proper water, plus feed storage to keep rats away, and birds must be in a fenced coop inside a fenced yard.

The bird bylaws allow hens, but not roosters, or any other type of fowl such as ducks or peacocks.

Birds must also be licensed, which can be done in person at city hall or online.

Coops can be no larger than eight square metres in floor area, and no higher than three metres.

Setbacks from property lines roads, paths and lanes must also be followed.

Councillor Martin Baker cited several reasons he voted against hen bylaws.

"There's a significant number of people in the city who don't want chickens, and someone has to represent them."

He pointed to Duncan's survey that basically showed an eight percent difference favouring opponents to supporters.

That's why Blom said she feels "betrayed" by council after the slim majority said 'No.'

"When the poll came in people were against and they should have gone with the people.

"Sharon said people don't have problems in Nanaimo or Victoria, but I don't live there, and I don't want them."

Barker grew up raising chickens. He said the city's rodent problem could grow among permitted coops.

"Eighty percent of all coops will have rats," he said, "unless we take away their habitat, like coops."

"Responsibility for chickens is a lot more than some people think."

Still, the bylaws are reasonable if followed, he said, but expected complaints about hen owners.

"With fines, the city will be forced to act. If everyone follows the rules, hopefully I'll be proven wrong."

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