COLUMN: Better things to do than ‘rule the roost’

By the time you read this, the following may be moot.

By the time you read this, the following may be moot. Because sometime after 3 p.m. yesterday city council will have either let common sense prevail, or will have taken “the country” out of its “City” signature.

The discussion this week centered on the right to keep a handful of chickens in an urban backyard. That ability was, as I recall, revoked a couple of weeks ago based on the complaint of a neighbour and, in my opinion, misguided (or as an excuse to say ‘no’) fears of avian flu decimating the very important poultry industry in this community, and throughout B.C.

I don’t disagree with the need to protect such a significant industry … it is one of the wheels that keep our economy turning. However, the avian flu event of a few years ago that cleaned out virtually every barn, and a few backyards, of feathered flocks was not caused by backyard chickens.

There is far more threat to the industry from crows and other wild birds than from three or four cluckers in a residential coop.

And let’s face it, if keeping a few chickens was a serious issue indulged by many, council would have heard of it, and reacted, years before now.

Since most people have had the ability, if not the urge, to keep chickens there would be mini-flocks everywhere. There aren’t.

Personally, and speaking as one who lives on acreage well out of the urban mix, keeping chickens requires vastly more effort, care and cost than the value of a couple of eggs a day. It is a ‘hobby’ holding an appeal for only a few.

And yes, for the neighbour, a clucking hen announcing the presentation of her latest egg can be a little noisy. However, is it worse than the yapping dog that keeps you up half the night? Or the wandering cat that craps in your rose bed? Or blueberry cannons?

Give me a squawking chicken any day over them.

Lest city council has forgotten, there is also a dairy farm surrounded by residential development in the heart of east Abbotsford. Nothing wrong with that, though I’m sure it rankles any who see it more for its development potential than the pastoral qualities that make our community what it is.

I have to admit that chickens in the backyard can create a vermin problem, but if care is taken to store the feed in metal containers, distributing each day only enough for the birds to consume, there’ll be little attraction for rats and raccoons. Of course the latter, along with an errant weasel or two, may take care of ‘the chicken problem’ far more quickly than council anyway.

What makes the whole concern of our ‘city fathers’ (and ‘mother’ I should add) a little odd, considering our geographic location, is that the City of Vancouver and many of its neighbouring jurisdictions welcome the occasional backyard flock.

So why, I have to wonder, is the ‘City in the Country’ so worried about the issue that it has even become ‘an issue’, other than the somewhat spurious argument of avian flu threat?

Let the ‘urban farmers’ have their few chickens … if you must, make a few rules as to bird number, roosters and food storage … and get on with the real business of running a city.

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