Pigeon prohibition bothers ‘Birdman’

Bylaw disallows keeping certain birds in residential areas

Gurbir “The Birdman” Brar believes in pigeons.

They can prevent crime, relieve depression and high blood pressure, teach science, and heal family divides, he says.

The 23-year-old wants to encourage others to keep the birds as pets and rekindle a dying hobby.

But a City of Abbotsford bylaw is putting Brar’s passion in jeopardy.

Since the age of six, the self-dubbed “Birdman” has kept pigeons in his backyard, feeding them, regularly taking them out to fly, and developing a relationship with the birds, each of which he says has a unique personality.

While studying criminology at the University of the Fraser Valley, he began developing a crime-prevention program. He believes getting young people to care for pigeons can keep them out of trouble, through youth outreach programs.

The birds can be relied upon to always return to their owner, which can have a positive effect on a young person’s self-esteem, something many at-risk kids need, said Brar.

His goal is to develop programs with local elementary and middle schools, which he hopes would foster the fading pastime among the younger generation.

“One of my worries is that when I’m 40, 45, 50, I won’t have anyone to fly my pigeons with or compete against,” said Brar, who has entered his birds in races.

The in-school programs could also be used to teach a variety of sciences – nutrition, physics, biology – as well as develop leadership skills among students who join pigeon-keeping clubs.

Brar has had several friends become involved in crime and “the gang lifestyle,” which he has successfully avoided thanks, in part, to his pigeons, he says.

A few years ago, a 16-year-old Surrey boy contacted him through the local pigeon club’s website, asking for help getting started in the hobby.

Brar didn’t hesitate to build a small loft, fill it with half a dozen birds and drive them to the young man, who himself was involved with gangs.

The new pigeon keeper has embraced the activity, left his criminal lifestyle and is now attending college, said Brar.

The hobby also has the potential to bring different generations together, especially in Indo-Canadian communities, said Brar. Keeping pigeons is popular throughout India and doing it in Canada can bring young people closer to their parents and grandparents who may have memories of doing so back home.

All of these plans have come out of Brar’s passion for the hobby and his own flock he keeps in a hand-built loft in his backyard.

But ever since he moved with his family to a new home in west Abbotsford in 2013, he has been stressed about the possibility of losing his own flock of birds.

His previous neighbours never complained about the birds, even commenting about how much they liked them, he said.

But he has received several notices from both CARE Animal Control and the City of Abbotsford, some threatening fines of up to $250 per day. He has been informed that since the property is not zoned for agricultural use, he cannot keep the pigeons.

Brar feels this is unfair.

He has reduced the size of his flock from approximately 100 to 25, even keeping them in his garage, rather than an outdoor enclosure, for some time.

“We’re not using them for eggs, we’re not using them for meat,” he said. “They’re literally just pets.”

The hobby is likely to die, said Brar, let alone see a resurgence, if pigeons cannot be kept in residential areas.

“The bylaw itself, I feel is very oppressive, in the sense that it’s almost helping to kill this hobby,” he said.

Just as with any pet owners, there are responsible and irresponsible pigeon keepers, said Brar, who suggests implementing a licensing system, with rules about cleanliness, overcrowding and training.

Brar has sent letters to Abbotsford city councillors and the mayor, asking that they put a moratorium on the bylaw.

The city manager responded to Brar, telling him he is welcome to appear before council as a delegation and make the case for why the rule should be changed, an offer he has yet to take up, according to Mayor Henry Braun.

“We’re not picking on Mr. Brar. The bylaw is the bylaw… The only way that council would do that is if they hear a compelling case for why we should revisit that bylaw,” said Braun.

But Brar said he hopes to continue his passion, for years to come.

“My goal is, until the day I die, I’m going to keep pigeons. One way or another, I’m going to have pigeons.”

Just Posted

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat greets fans outside of the Abbotsford Centre prior to the Canucks exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators in 2019. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
More jobs posted for Abbotsford AHL team

Five new opportunities accepting applicants, Comets forward Lukas Jasek signs in Finland

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

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