A Town of Qualicum Beach survey shows a majority of residents favour allowing chickens in residential backyards.
The survey generated one of the highest responses the town has received in recent years. There were 668 people who completed the survey, second to the Airport Land Use Plan survey that received 700 responses.
The town started a backyard poultry pilot project in 2017 involving 20 residences. Earlier this year, council decided to phase out and discontinue the project. The decision received a significant backlash from the community and last July, council reconsidered their position on the issue and directed staff to hold a survey to solicit feedback from the community.
Director of Planning, Luke Sales indicated to council at its regular meeting on Oct. 27 they were surprised by the high number of responses and added “this is something that our residents are very passionate about, both for and against.”
Overall, 59 per cent supported backyard poultry and 39 per cent are against.
“When we summed up all the responses, it’s interesting to see a divergence there,” said Sales. “You see a lot of people answered very strongly that they do not want to see backyard chickens and (others) very strongly in favour of backyard chickens. In total, the responses would have been in favour of but not inordinately.”
Sales suggested to council that if the town wants to permit backyard poultry, a licensing system could be adopted to require those interested in having poultry in their backyards to apply for a licence ever year, which could be revoked if there are violations.
Staff recommended the bylaw process be initiated to amend the Town’s Land Use and Subdivision Bylaw and Animal Control Bylaw to permit backyard poultry with a licensing system. Coun. Scott Harrison added the motion that staff present the amendments to council. Council supported the amended motion 3-2 with councillors Teunis Westbroek and Robert Filmer voting against.
“I believe the survey has spoken,” said Mayor Brian Wiese. “The majority of the town do want them. A slim majority but definitely a majority.”
Westbroek wanted regulations placed on the size of properties that should be allowed to have backyard chickens.
Coun. Anne Skipsey said she was torn on the issue as she’s heard both sides. She pointed out concerns about the impacts having chickens in the neighbourhood. The leading concern of residents who answered the survey was rodents and pests.
Sales explained there is potentially an impact on neighbours if chickens are not kept property.
“From the research that we’ve done, the biggest (problem) comes when food is not managed properly,” said Sale. “The key point here is that chickens actually don’t attract rodents. It’s their food that attracts rodents. And so properly managing food systems and essentially sealing out the coop and probably the run from the outside is probably the way to go.”
Filmer felt this is just going to attract more bears to the area and he doesn’t want bears euthanized or shot because they become a nuisance to the neighbourhood.
“I don’t want the response to be, ‘shoot the bear,’” said Filmer. “I don’t want loose chickens around town.”