Will Kamloops chicken out?

By Mike Youds

The last time Kamloops tried to make up its mind whether to allow urban hens, about 40 people crammed into council chambers.

While the Urban Hen Movement managed to change a few minds, local activists failed to convince enough on council in 2009 to enact a bylaw permitting backyard hens.

A pilot project that would have allowed 30 families to demonstrate the practice was voted down.

Seven years later, on June 14, a public hearing will consider animal control bylaw amendments that would clear the way for urban hens. 

This time, public opinion is on side, said Bonnie Klohn, who spearheaded the initiative in 2009. She's convinced the day has arrived for a step forward in food security and sustainability.

“The city has take a really thoughtful approach,” Kohn said. “Now, they’ve got a lot of support and it’s fairly well documented. This time, I’m super hopeful and I think it will pass.”

Mayor Peter Milobar and Coun. Ken Christian are not so enthusiastic. They question the value of keeping urban hens in relation to public health and whether there is a genuine need to supplement the commercial egg market.

“It’s been well documented that I don’t support them,” Milobar said at a recent council workshop.

The amendments would allow urban hens on properties as small as 4,000 square feet.

This time is different, said Klohn. A member of the Kamloops Food Security Council, she has played an advisory role on development of the city's food and urban agriculture plan. 

Instead of the confrontational approach in 2009, this time a survey indicates the vast majority of city residents support the idea.

Klohn took to heart a comment made by a former councillor after urban hens were defeated last time. John O’Fee said the animal control bylaw is enforced only on the basis of complaints. In other words, mind your hens and no one should object.

“I took John O’Fee’s advice and I have urban hens, anyway,” Klohn said.

She estimates as many as 200 families in Kamloops already keep backyard chickens.

Bylaw considerations include limiting numbers (two to five hens), restricting rearing to backyards only, ensuring sufficient setback allowances and appropriate care for the birds. Residents who meet all conditions will be required to register their hens with the city. As well, the city will spend $10,000 training animal control officers to properly handle hens and constructing a coop at the city pound in the event birds have to be impounded.



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