Backyard chicken coops not overtaking the city

Duncan Martin remembers the time last summer when one of his backyard chickens wandered off after he let the hens into the garden to eat unwanted slugs.

A couple of weeks went by and I thought she was done for, said Martin, a Hastings Sunrise resident. But then another one disappeared and I started looking for her around the block and up and down the alley.

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Martin soon discovered the two hens had taken up residence down the block with an elderly man who was caring for them. Using his son as an interpreter, the man told Martin he used to raise pigeons so when the chickens showed up he started feeding them. Martin took the hens home, but now plans to help the man set up his own backyard chicken coop this summer.

Martin, who builds chicken coops in a small workshop on his property, said keeping backyard chickens has not exploded as a trend since the bylaw allowing them passed in 2010. But he does receive commissions to build between three and four coops a month. His specialties include the Vancooper and the Mini-Coop, a folding unit that can be used seasonally.

Its been a steady slow trickle, said Martin, who has a website called dailyeggs.com. But there hasnt been any big cultural shift.

He added with the exception of last summer, his hens rarely attempt to wander off and from what hes heard anecdotally, stray chickens are not a problem in the city.

According to the city, 100 households in Vancouver are registered and permitted to keep up to four hens each. To date, Vancouver Animal Control has fielded 20 complaints a year about backyard chickens.

The city also scrapped a controversial proposal to build a $20,000 specialized coop at its Animal Control facility, which would have held stray chickens until new homes could be found for them. But because so few stray chickens are wandering city streets the proposal never went ahead. Instead, the odd stray chicken is held in a dog kennel until it can be moved, typically to a hobby farm.

And thats where Southlands Farm comes in. The farm is already taking in stray chickens, and manager Jordan Maynard said the family would be glad to become the official home for lost or abandoned hens in the city.

Weve taken in two since the bylaw was passed and they were both escapees, said Maynard. The city was talking about spending thousands on a rescue centre, but wed be happy to take on that job and save the city some money.

Maynard added the farm, located in the Southlands neighbourhood known for its upscale homes and horse stables, has taken in stray chickens for decades at the request of the SPCA.

Were willing to open the farm to these chickens, said Maynard, who added the farm is home to 34 of the birds.

sthomas@vancourier.com

twitter.com/sthomas10

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