Backyard Hens

Backyard Hens for Prince Rupert

Main Organizer: Samantha Lewis

Organization: Student Project in partnership with Transition Prince Rupert

Contact: sam.nic.lew@gmail.com

Project Outline:

It is currently illegal to keep hens in Prince Rupert, under animal bylaw no. 2987. Many cities all over North America have recently revised their bylaws to allow for the keeping of backyard hens and the response to these revisions has been overwhelmingly positive. Many BC communities like Terrace, New Westminster, Nanaimo and even Vancouver, have all reported success in allowing backyard hens. Recently, local student and home owner Samantha Lewis brought forth a proposal to city council to change bylaw no. 2987 to allow Prince Rupert residents to enjoy farm-fresh eggs from their own backyard!

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Why keep backyard hens?

  • Free eggs
  • Free fertilizer
  • Effective composts
  • Reduces carbon footprint
  • Supports sustainability
  • Fantastic pets
  • Educational
  • Reduces food costs

On March 26th, 2012, the city of Prince Rupert has agreed to hear a proposal regarding the amendment of animal bylaw no. 2987 to allow for the keeping of backyard hens. The proposal includes a framework, based on the successful initiatives of both Vancouver and Terrace, for allowing up to four hens on a property within residential zones R1 and R2. This would mean that, if passed, residents of PR could apply for a poultry license and keep up to four hens on their property, provided the general guidelines of the framework are met.

Please come to the meeting on March 26th at City Hall and show your support in making Prince Rupert a greener, more sustainable place to live. The more support this proposal has from the community, the more seriously council will consider amending the bylaw. Backyard hens mean healthier families, and healthier forests. I want that for my city, don’t you?

Questions?

Will the hens attract unwanted animals, such as wolves or rats?
No. All backyard hens and feed are to be contained properly and securely. This makes the hens no more a risk, in regard to attracting predator animals, than the average house cat or small dog. Rats and mice are attracted to the chicken’s food, not the actual bird. Properly secured food containers will mitigate any issues concerning pests.

Will roosters be allowed or just hens? What about other poultry?
The Council‐approved regulations only allow for the keeping of female chickens (hens) four months of age or older. No other fowl or farm animals are allowed.

Will there be a limit on the number of hens that can be kept?
A maximum of four hens may be kept per lot ‐ provided that the available space and placement of the coop meet the requirements set out in the bylaw.

Will residents be allowed to sell the eggs from backyard hens?
No. Commercial use of eggs, meat, manure or any other hen products is prohibited.

Will people be allowed to slaughter chickens, or are they meant just for eggs?
Backyard slaughtering is not allowed. Hens at the end of their lives may be euthanized by a veterinarian or taken to a farm for slaughtering.

How is the City going to ensure that people’s health will not be put at risk (e.g. noise, smell, avian flu and other health concerns)?
The City will work closely with Northern Health to ensure that the regulations satisfy concerns around health and safety. The local Health Authority has reviewed the City’s regulations and supports the City’s efforts to increase local food options.

How many eggs does one hen lay per day? Or per week?
This depends on many factors including the time of year, the breed and diet of the hen and the age of the hen. Most of the standard breeds of chickens that have been selected through the years for egg production will lay between 180 – 320 eggs per year in their first year of laying.

Should I get more than one hen?
Yes. Chickens have a strong social structure.

Do you have to have a rooster for a hen to lay eggs?
No. Without a rooster, hens will still lay eggs. If you don’t have a rooster, the eggs can’t be fertile, and won’t hatch. Non‐fertile eggs are (arguably) just as nutritious and tasty as fertile eggs.

Can they run around your yard? Do you need to keep them fenced in?
They can run around your yard, but care must be taken to protect them from predators. Therefore, they should be securely fenced in most of the time, especially during non‐daylight hours. If they are not fenced in during the day, they may wander too far and leave the property, inviting attacks from dogs and other animals. Some cities have regulations about where chickens can roam.

How long do they lay eggs before they become non‐laying hens?
At about three or four years, production is not very efficient. Most commercial and farm hens are culled after their second season of laying.

Do Chickens make noise?
Hens cluck and coo quietly but do not make any loud noises, and are considerably quieter than a dog. A loud cluck of a hen usually registers at about 70 decibels, where as a normal human conversation is about 60 decibels. The bark of a dog is about 100 decibels.

Do chickens smell?
No. A properly cared for chicken coop should not produce offensive odors. It is recommended to clean their cage once a week.

Do chickens carry disease?
Like other pets, chickens can carry disease. The most common being salmonella (which turtles and other birds also are known to carry). If hens are properly cared for and the owners practice safe handling techniques, for example thoroughly washing hands and clothes after touching the chickens, backyard hens pose no health risk.

What about Avian Bird Flu?
BC Government Vets have stated that backyard flocks are a negligible risk to spreading avian flu H151. They maintain that due to their genetic diversity, healthy immune systems and safe enclosure, backyard hens are not a likely target to incubate the Avian Bird Flu virus. The city will work closely with the Northern Health Authority to ensure the resident’s are informed on all health issues. See also Bio-security Requirements, under General Guidelines, to learn more about how backyard hen owners can safely meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency requirements.

Will chickens effect neighboring resident’s property value?
No. If a neighbor’s chicken coop is producing offensive odor or is close enough to your property to effect its resale value, then it is in direct violation of the setbacks and/or general care guidelines of the amended animal control bylaw.

How do you deal with excrement?
It makes excellent compost, especially when combined with materials high in carbon. Many of the materials used for litter in the chicken yard/house (such as shavings, straw, and sawdust) are high in carbon, making the mixture of chicken manure (high in nitrogen) and litter a balanced ingredient for a compost pile.

4 Comments

  1. I fully support amending bylaw no.2987 to allow keeping hens in backyards in Prince Rupert.It will go a long way in helping people become more self sufficient in these uncertain times.Its also a healthier food source than commercial eggs and chicken raising adds to a healthy lifestyle.

  2. I also fully support bylaw no.2987. I want to have some in my yard – fresh eggs are better tasting not to mention the fact that it would reduce our carbon footprint as well. I would like to know how the meeting with City counsel went, whether or not we are allowed to do this, and more information if someone knows where to get some laying hens from.

  3. Did this bylaw pass?

    • Hi Ray,

      Unfortunately it did not pass at the time – but with some changes on Council we are now working again to have sustainability-related policies implemented. We hope that it won’t be too long before chickens will be legal!

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