Nobody has seemed to notice that backyard hens are finally legal in Lake Cowichan. And that’s a good thing.
“The Animal Control Bylaw was amended to include the keeping of backyard hens a few months back and to this date there has been no documented bylaw infractions,” Mayor Bob Day said Aug. 27.
The bylaw was decades in the making.
While the town’s bylaws had previously never allowed chickens in backyards within residential areas, it’s well known several residents in the community had them anyway. The “no chickens” bylaw was only ever enforced by complaint, however, making the issue lower on the priority list for council than others items.
It all came to a head in November 2020 when a delegation appeared before council with a petition with approximately 500 signatures asking that Lake Cowichan allow backyard chickens for the first time.
Unsure if those signatures were all valid, council opted for a straw poll of the town’s qualified electors to determine if there was interest in permitting backyard chickens in residential zones within the municipality.
On Feb. 23, town council had given first and second reading to amend the zoning bylaw to allow for the keeping of backyard hens. It passed third reading on March 23 and adoption more recently.
No more than six hens are permitted on a property and there are a handful of other requirements would-be chicken owners need to comply with in order to be lawful.
After being talked about for years, there was no council discussion before final adoption but councillor Carolyn Austin did say at a meeting back in December 2020, that she didn’t expect the numbers of backyard chickens to increase dramatically as a result of the bylaw change.
”Keeping chickens is not for the faint of heart. It is a big commitment and a financial burden not to be taken on without a great deal of consideration and planning,” Austin said. “Not everyone will take on raising chickens, as hens are hard to find right now and caring for them properly is an expensive hobby.”
She cited COVID-19 and food security as reasons to allow people to keep the birds in their yards if they wished.