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Chilliwack says no to backyard chickens

Chilliwack councillor Jason Lum said he sees the benefits of backyard chickens for Chilliwack, and was the lone dissenter in the vote.
Allowing backyard chickens in urban areas could put the larger commercial poultry industry in Chilliwack at risk of Avian Flu

Chilliwack councillor Jason Lum said he sees the benefits of backyard chickens for Chilliwack. They might even outweigh the risks.

But he was outvoted on this one.

The rest of council voted Tuesday to maintain the status quo, which means no backyard chickens in Chilliwack's residential areas.

City officials said they've fielded requests over the years from residents who would like to be able have backyard chickens in residential areas, including a presentation to an ag advisory committee by resident Nicholette Devenney.

Chickens are only permitted on agricultural land at the moment.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she understood those who wish to add a few hens, especially those already growing their own food, are foodies or fans of food shows, for example.

But she reminded everyone of the Avian Flu outbreaks of 2004 and 2009, which had devastating impact on Chilliwack and led to mass culling of infected flocks.

There were 80 farms quarantined during the last avian flu outbreak.

Coun. Ken Huttema warned that allowing backyard poultry in urban areas would be "putting the bigger industry at risk."

Avian flu is "something that scares everybody" but on a daily basis salmonella and e.coli also come into play.

"We don’t want anyone getting sick because they’ve eaten contaminated eggs, and then the whole industry gets tainted with that.”

But Lum stressed later that although he supported democracy and the outcome of the vote, he still supports the idea if a "responsible" pilot project similar that of City of Surrey as well.

"I hope we get a chance to address the risks that were wisely brought up by staff and Council and revisit the situation," he wrote on his Facebook page.

A staff report on the city website documents the Agricultural Advisory committee discussion and decision to stay with the status quo on the topic of urban hens.

"Committee members expressed concern regarding the introduction of an agricultural use in urban areas and discussed issues concerning end of life (including butchery and disposal), spread of disease, care for unwanted chickens, attracting vermin, bylaw enforcement and cost considerations.

It came down to urban chickens being seen as carrying too high a risk.

"Committee members noted that the protection of agricultural industry was of import and there is convenient, local access to farm fresh eggs within the City of Chilliwack.

"Given the concerns noted, the AAC unanimously resolved to recommend to Council that consideration be given to continued support of the City's current land use regulations permitting the keeping of poultry on properties zoned for agricultural uses only."

The mayor said staff spent a lot of time researching the whole issue.

"But I do understand that people want it. Maybe we can look at it again someday when there are some preventable measures in place."

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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