Opinion

Allowing chickens would be a mistake

Keeping chickens in backyards has been forbidden in Terrace since 1991. Now, though, council is looking at allowing up to four hens per property for personal use, excluding selling surplus eggs or cooking the odd bird into fricassee.

Council’s heart is in the right place, aiming to permit residents to supply their own eggs so they know what the birds have been fed, and saving gasoline to truck the eggs here. But if controlling dogs and attempting to make sure they are treated humanely has been a struggle for the animal control officer, magnify those hassles for backyard chickens. Will the officer tootle through back alleys looking for miscreants?

I foresee nothing but stress for by-law control officers and headaches for council. My view is based on a farm childhood where every March Mom bought 100 day-old chicks that had to be coddled for two months before they could face the outdoors, and 35 years living in Thornhill where  dogs ran at large despite bylaws, impoundment and fines.

Some of council’s proposed rules seem designed to be broken. For instance, anyone handling the chickens will have to wash up before and after. Realistic? Not a chance. And how will council find out if the handler is ignoring this rule? And how will they deal with it?

Also, veterinary care must be sought for any sick or injured bird. The last time my dog needed to see a vet, the wait was six weeks. Yet a sick hen is to be isolated from the healthy birds, according to a website, UrbanChickens. Where would the  sick bird be kept?

Another sticking point – a chicken must be humanely euthanized by a vet, and the carcass disposed of properly, either at an appropriate farm or by a vet. Rest assured that will happen! I see most sick birds tossed out in a ditch or wrapped  before being stuffed in the garbage can.

Hens are intended to supply the family with fresh eggs. Surplus eggs are not to be sold or bartered, another loophole of Humvee proportions. Hens may not lay an egg a day, but even if they skip a day or two, the family may not consume all unless Mom routinely bakes cookies or serves egg salad.

A coop must be registered at an annual $15 fee. Does Terrace have any unregistered dogs? Then expect a coop or two to go unregistered.

Permission from landlords will be necessary for renters who intend keeping hens. This rule has the potential to involve landlords in any confrontations with neighbours or by-law officers. Suppose after evaluating the tenant’s history of keeping the premises tidy and looked after the landlord gives permission believing the tenant will live up to the terms of the license.

Then the tenant reneges. Manure piles up creating odours, inviting mice, even rats. Or what about the nitty gritty of this by-law? Hens must have sand for dust bathing. City chicken pens I’ve seen often have dirt hard as concrete.

I love the line, “should a homeowner decide to have a hen farm-prepared for dinner”. Come on. Council expects the backyard ‘farmer’  to drive his chicken, like Miss Daisy, to a country farm where his hen will be killed, plucked, and eviscerated oven-ready?

Start-up costs will be substantial – fencing, a coop built to keep hens and eggs from freezing in winter, the cost of the birds themselves, pellets and bedding. Add the need for regular care to keep the birds fed, watered, and the eggs collected. If families  are so busy they must eat takeout and lack the gumption to compost their own kitchen waste given the inexpensive, handy plastic composters sold at Rona and Canadian Tire, how many of them will maintain proper care of four hens?

Council might regret this bylaw more than they did authorizing graffiti on the Co-op building.

 

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