Qualicum Beach council has voted unanimously against allowing backyard chickens in residential areas.
The town initiated a pilot project on backyard chickens that ran from May 2017 to May 2020. There were 17 permits issued. Throughout the period of the project, the town’s bylaw department received approximately six to 10 complaints.
A staff report, presented to council at its regular meeting on March 17, indicated there were more dog complaints than chicken ones and recommended the permanent allowance of chickens to be raised in residential areas within the town.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek pointed out that there are more dogs in town than chickens.
“So I think that’s not necessarily a good comment to make,” said Westbroek. “I have never been in favour of having farm animals in residential areas. Some look after them really well but there’s issues of attracting rats because of feeds and other things, racoons. I think they belong to farm areas, ALR lands or larger properties.”
Coun. Robert Filmer also voted against allowing the chickens. He said he’s received complaints about them running loose.
“There’s residents not claiming their chickens and now you’ve got the bylaw officer with chickens that no one wants to claim,” Filmer said.
The town’s chief administrative officer, Daniel Sailland, participated in the pilot project and told council that they’ve learned a lot.
“My kids are involved in 4-H and the learning has been absolutely fantastic, ” said Sailland. “And the connection with 4-H to connect with agriculture that way, although we’re in a more urban area, has really been a positive experience. From my perspective, it continues to be something very good.”
Sailland said they followed the guidelines to keep the chickens in an enclosure and had no issues with pests.
“I know for certain living by the ocean I have no more rats than I had when I first moved in when I did not have chickens,” said Sailland. “So I think certain locations are always going to have pests.”
Filmer appreciated Sailland’s comments but did not consider it ‘appropriate’.
“We don’t allow residents to sit in our meetings and then plead their case to us if they’re in a pilot project,” said Filmer. “But we just allowed one of our staff to do that exact thing. I don’t think that was at all appropriate. “I think when we start looking at things like this, whether you’re a high town official CAO or elected official we all play by the same rules and regulations.”
Coun. Scott Harrison said they all express their personal experiences in council during a debate and did not find Sailland’s comments to be in violation of protocol.
“There’s no pecuniary interest in terms of a financial benefit to having two chickens in your backyard,” said Harrison. “So that’s not a conflict. Pecuniary interest can be construed as being different from that of the general public. There are members of the general public that does support it and there are members of the general public that do not. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to speak your personal experience. And he’s not voting on it.”
Owners of the chickens involved in the project were given one year to have them removed.