What will come first?

Parksville to look into allowing chickens in yards

There appears to be a lot of support for backyard chickens in Parksville.

Seven members of the gallery spoke at Wednesday’s town hall style council meeting at Ballenas Secondary School, and the closest to opposition was a man who said he supported the idea, but the city had to do their research and make sure they plan for the negative aspects including noise, smell, predators and irresponsible owners.

The discussion was sparked by a letter from Holly Tillotson asking council to allow people to keep a small number of egg laying chickens within the city.

“Chickens are an integral part of a backyard ecosystem that includes using most kitchen compost as a food source along with some garden/grass clippings, production of fertilizer for the garden, production of eggs which are truly locally grown reducing transportation costs and the carbon footprint substantially,” the letter said.

“We were just wanting to keep a few chickens to have our own eggs,” she told The News.

The benefits would be numerous including chickens being “excellent consumers of garden pests such as bugs and slugs, and can be used to keep weeds in check,” as well as providing learning experiences for children.

Lana Harach with the local 4H poultry club was the first to speak, touting the benefits including getting eggs much fresher than the average 30 day old commercial eggs, cutting down on waste and environmental impact and providing youth with a chance to learn about gardening, animals, self reliance and food security.

She said that raising four chickens would allow children to join 4H which she sold as a valuable experience where she learnt everything from public speaking to science.

Councillor Marc Lefebvre said he was nervous about the idea until he talked to public health officials and councillors in Nanaimo where they allow it, who convinced him it is a good idea.

Coun. Sue Powell said she worked on an industrial chicken farm when she was younger which was a disturbing experience and she stressed that the Island’s limited food production makes raising urban chickens a good idea.

Adam Schug said he is not a farmer or expert, but addressed some of the myths, suggesting the waste doesn’t stink as much as that of other urban pets and can be used as compost and that small groups of bird are much less susceptible to disease than large industrial operations.

While several people cautioned against roosters and suggested limiting the number and planning for dealing with the end of chicken’s life, everyone appeared supportive, including the mayor and four of five councillors present speaking in favour.

Council asked staff for a report on bylaw options weighing the pros and cons.

Tillotson invites everyone to join the Backyard Chickens In Parksville Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/263651297002346/.