A Chilliwack family was forced to relocated its pet quails last week after what they say are “vague” bylaws as to what types of birds folks can have as pets in urban residential areas.
Nick and Nicole Meredith own 10 quail and have had them for about a year. About three weeks ago, a representative from Chilliwack’s CARE Centre (Community Animal Response and Education) came knocking on their door after CARE received a complaint that there were quail on the property.
The Merediths aren’t sure who made the complaint as all of their neighbours are either fine with them having the birds or didn’t know they were even there, Nick said.
“We still don’t know what the complaint was,” Nick added.
They were told quail are not allowed where they lived. The Merediths thought quail were allowed because the city’s bylaws do not specifically mention that type of bird when referring to animals not allowed in urban residential areas.
“In their bylaws it doesn’t say anything about quail specifically,” Nicole said. “The problem is (the bylaw) says poultry but not birds that are commonly kept indoors in a cage, which is a grey area for us.”
It would be fine if the quail were inside the house, but since they live outside in a coop with a run attached, it’s against bylaw No. 1206.
“Under the bylaw the quail would be classified as poultry not as domesticated animals,” said Angelique Crowther, manager of communications for the Fraser Valley Regional District, in an email.
The Consolidated Sub-Regional Animal Control Bylaw includes the following definitions for pets and poultry: “pet” means any common domesticated animal other than exotic animals, wildlife, livestock or poultry kept within a residence or on real property; “poultry” means any fowl including, but not limited to, a chicken, turkey, duck, goose, swan, pigeon, dove, or peafowl.
“In keeping with that definition for zoning, if quail are poultry, the zoning (City of Chilliwack) at present does not allow for backyard chickens (poultry),” Crowther said.
Nick would like to see Chilliwack follow suit with cities like Vancouver that do allow backyard chickens, and Nicole has started a petition to allow backyard quail in Chilliwack.
“It’s honestly ridiculous that you can’t have them in your backyard,” Nick said. “It seems the most likely reason is they fear it will negatively impact the poultry industry.”
But since their 10 quail are pets, they don’t understand how having them in a caged area in their backyard it can negatively affect the industry. They still buy local chicken and chicken eggs, and their two sons have had a firsthand experience with the small birds.
“We’re teaching them young how it all works. How much closer to the farming industry can you get than in your own backyard?” Nick said.
The Merediths point to the many benefits of quail: they don’t need a large area to live, they’re quiet, they don’t make a big mess, they don’t smell, the make good fertilizer for gardens, they’re very good for pest control, their eggs are nutrient-rich, and the birds can be brought inside a home if needed, which you can’t do with a chicken.
The city suggested they apply for a temporary use permit, but according to the Merediths, one needs at least a half-acre property. They live on a little more than one-third of an acre.
A few weeks after CARE approached them, the Merediths received notification from them saying they had to get rid of the birds by Friday, May 28 or face a fine. That day, Nick and Nicole were packing up the quail to bring them to Nicole’s parents’ farm on the east end of Abbotsford (near Yarrow).
It’s about a 20-minute drive, and they plan on going there daily to continue to take care of them.
“We literally have to take our birds to a different city so we can have them,” Nick said.
Quail only live for about two years, so for the next year the family will be making regular trips to see their “little tweets” as they call them.
And what will they do when these quail die?
“I don’t think we’ll continue because that doesn’t help the carbon footprint to have to drive (to see them),” Nicole said.
“It defeats the point of having pets when you have to drive to somebody else’s house to enjoy your pets,” he added.
To sign the petition called “Allow backyard quail in Chilliwack B.C.” go to change.org/p/chilliwack-city-council-allow-backyard-quail-in-chilliwack-b-c.