Chickens’ fate up in the air as ban on backyard flocks upheld

Tanya Buskell keeps hens in her residential area and wants council to reconsider a recently upheld ban

Tanya and John Buskell

Tanya and John Buskell

Tanya Buskell is worried about the fate of the eight hens she and her husband John keep in their backyard following council’s decision to continue its ban on backyard flocks in Abbotsford’s urban areas on Monday.

“I was told we would be able to defend our stance… I’m completely blindsided by that fact that it happened (Monday).”

Tanya got the chickens about 15 months ago as a sort of therapy after losing her job. In January, the Buskells were given a notice from bylaw enforcement that they couldn’t keep the hens, as the city’s pound bylaw prohibits keeping farm animals in urban areas.

But after contacting the city, Tanya was told that she would not have to get rid of the chickens until council had an opportunity to review the issue. Tanya said she was told by Mayor Bruce Banman in person, as well as in an email, that she would be notified when the issue came to council.

But when the decision was made Monday, Tanya and John had been given no warning.

Leslie Stettler, an Abbotsford resident, appeared as a delegation to council Monday evening, asking them to consider a pilot project allowing small flocks of hens in backyards.

Council then considered a report from city staff recommending council continue the ban, stating that despite requests to keep flocks, the city receives complaints about neighbours with chickens, mostly due to rodent attraction, noise and unsightliness. The report also states that to a lesser extent, concerns about avian flu have been raised.

Council voted against the proposal, citing concerns for neighbours, and the potential impact on the agricultural sector.

Coun. Patricia Ross said she remembers the 2004 avian flu outbreak in the Fraser Valley when about 17 million birds had to be destroyed. She said that as Abbotsford is the centre of the poultry industry, “it’s just too big a risk.”

Some B.C. communities allow backyard flocks, including Surrey, Delta, New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, with a variety of different rules and stipulations for numbers or limiting ownership to hens.

Chilliwack, Langley, and Mission do not allow chickens.

Mayor Bruce Banman acknowledged that while some communities allow chickens, Abbotsford’s closest neighbours continue to ban them. He said that communities like Chilliwack and Mission likely have the same concerns that council has, that it will impact agriculture and the “many, many jobs” that it provides.

John Buskell disagrees with council’s perspective, saying there “is no science supporting that backyard chickens impact the spread of avian flu,” adding that the disease was spread through the industry, not in backyards.

The Buskells had a chicken die suddenly and were concerned about the spread of disease. They immediately brought it the Abbotsford Agricultural Centre, where staff determined it had died from an egg that ruptured internally. Tanya said this shows that in Abbotsford, which has the centre that will perform autopsies on chickens for only $10, is equipped to handle responsible chicken ownership.

Only Coun. Bill MacGregor voted to allow for a pilot project, saying a project with proper rules and regulations could be effective.

Tanya said she think chicken ownership should be regulated, and permits should be issued and a course on proper care should be required. She took a free course at the University of the Fraser Valley on the proper care of backyard chickens, learning anatomy, signs of disease or ill health, and proper care.

The Buskells said they obviously did not research the bylaw properly, but as Abbotsford is “the City in the Country,” allowing chickens should be considered.

“There has to be dialogue and debate about it… I think they would be surprised at how many people have chickens in this town,” said Tanya.

John said the decision, which they were told they would be informed of, should be declared void due to lack of consultation.

Tanya said she is disappointed with the way council made their decision and the information it was based on.

“I trusted them to look at both sides equally, and they didn’t.”

Katherine Jeffcoatt, manager of communications for the city, said due to changeover in the city’s bylaw department, the Buskells failed to be notified of council’s upcoming decision.

She said the Buskells will be able to register to make a delegation before council on the issue at an upcoming meeting, allowing council a chance to reconsider their decision, and keep their chickens in the interim.

Just Posted

Satwinder Bains of Abbotsford is the recipient of the 2021 aculty Service Excellence Award from University of the Fraser Valley. (UFV photo)
Satwinder Bains receives UFV Faculty Service Excellence Award

Bains has guided South Asian Studies Institute as director since 2006

The City of Abbotsford has prepared a draft Urban Forest Strategy that is now headed to public consulation.
Draft plan adopted for managing Abbotsford’s urban forests over next 25 years

Urban Forest Strategy now heads to public-consultation process

Country music star Chris Lane stops in Abbotsford next February. (Submitted)
Country music star Chris Lane coming to Abbotsford

Multi-platinum artist bringing ‘Fill Them Boots’ to Abbotsford Centre on Feb. 19, 2022

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

The intersection of Blueridge Drive and Blue Jay Street is one of three intersections in Abbotsford approved for traffic lights this year. (Google Street View)
Traffic signals approved at 3 Abbotsford intersections

Projects part of $1.45M in road upgrades around community

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read