Town of Oliver pondering allowing domestic ducks, with some on council crying fowl

To duck, or not to duck?

Domestic ducks in Oliver have left some folks with their feathers ruffled as council grapples with a fowl decision.

Council first began discussing allowing locals to house ducks on their properties, in a similar fashion to backyard chicken coops, last month.

An individual in the community had gone ahead and put in a duck pond, and council was faced with deciding whether to amend existing bylaws to allow for such activity. 

At the July 27 meeting, a conflicted council asked town staff to come back with more information so they could deliberate on the pros and cons. Staff did so at Monday's meeting.

Director of development services Randy Houle addressed council to read out a list of domestic duck characteristics, citing Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine experts — certainly not quacks. 

"Ducks drink and excrete more water than chickens or turkeys. Their droppings contain over 90 per cent moisture," Houle said, meaning they are a little more high-maintenance than chickens in terms of providing fresh bedding. 

He also shared some insight from the City of Nanaimo which has had a bylaw allowing domestic ducks for half a decade. 

"There’s been one or two complaints over the last five years related to a duck escaping from a property,” Houle explained in his report, relaying Nanaimo's notes. “There has not been any cases where a bylaw officer had to interpret the difference between a wild or domestic duck.” 

Coun. Larry Schwartzenberger had some thoughts on the matter.

"My wife and I were having dinner and our discussion as it often does turned to ducks this evening,” he said, to chuckles from his fellow councillors.

“My question is do ducks need a pond, some kind of water, is that still water that’s going to cause problems for mosquitos, larvae, that kind of thing or is it running water that they use and they don’t need a pond?”

Coun. Dave Mattes said he had visited the existing property with the ducks, speaking to neighbours on both sides, and could see the problem. 

"[The ducks] were making noise constantly during the ten minutes I was there," Mattes said, explaining one neighbour had no problem but the other, closer to the duck area, was left crying fowl. 

"They have lost the use of their yard on that side because of them, which I think is unfair," he said. " [The ducks] sat there, they quacked and they drank water, that's pretty much what they did." 

Currently, the town allows five chickens for a 500 square metre area and one additional per 100 square metres more.

Mattes suggested regulation be the same for chickens and ducks, and putting a cap on total fowl per property based on property size, regardless of species. 

Others on council voiced support for a mandatory circulating pump or other running water system for any pond feature put in for ducks, to ensure standing water would not be available to breed pests. 

In the end, council voted to send the idea back to staff to come forward again at a future meeting with a proposed bylaw amendment taking into account all of council's discussion points, and at that point, the change will take flight. 

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