A Lake Country woman just wants her daughters to keep their pet chickens.
Maggie Wright, a resident in the Sunburn Hill area, decided to take two chickens from her daughters’ Elementary school classroom last May as pets when they were given away at the end of a class project.
The Wrights kept the chickens in a hen house and even picked up two others from a farm in Kelowna’s Black Mountain area, who were older and didn’t lay many eggs.
When doing her research for chicken keeping, Wright said she couldn’t find any bylaws in Lake Country about urban chickens, but Vernon allows up to a maximum of four. Kelowna allows up to 10 chickens in residential urban areas if the lot is a half acre, or larger, in size.
John Mellow, with the district’s bylaw services, said a procedure is followed prior to a ticket being issued.
First, the resident is informed of the infraction and given two weeks to remove the chickens from the property. A letter is also sent to the resident with the bylaw.
If the resident fails to comply, they are given a ticket for $100. Normally he gets between three to four complaints a year about residential chickens.
Director of community services Mark Koch said council had discussed it previously as a way to prevent farm animals in residential zones, but the bylaw can always be amended.
It would have to go through four readings and a public hearing in order for it to be amended.
Mayor James Baker said the bylaw could definitely be updated to include backyard chickens. While he said chickens are benign, roosters could pose a problem.
The District of Coldstream is also in the middle of processing a bylaw which, if approved by council, will allow up to four hens in a minimum of an 836-square-foot property.
“We never (sold) anything, my kids just have them as a pet,” Wright said.
She said the chickens are kept inside at night on their property which is about 4,800 square feet. When the family noticed one of the chicks grew into a rooster, she planned to give it away. They keep the rooster inside so he’s quiet, she said.
Wright was “quite surprised” when they were visited by a bylaw officer who said they can’t keep chickens on their property, even if they are kept in the house. According to Lake Country’s bylaws, chickens are currently not allowed in urban residential zones, but do allow them on rural residential properties and in urban housing zones.
“We don’t understand (the) issue,” she said. “I hope that we can keep the hens, we definitely will get rid of the rooster.”
She also received a letter from the district’s bylaw officer and decided to keep them at a friend’s farm until the issue is sorted out as she doesn’t want a fine.
Her two daughters, Lydia, 8 and Lyanca, 6, love their chickens, she said.
“The children cried the whole night (when they were given to the farm),” Wright said, adding they are pets and part of the family.
Wright took to a Lake Country Moms Facebook page where she shared what she received from the district.
When Lake Country resident Tara Shoemaker shared her post in a common Lake Country page, it gathered more than 70 comments, mostly in support of urban chickens.
Raising a number of chickens herself, Shoemaker said “I’m in 1,000 per cent support for people having chickens.”
“I think everyone should be able to have them. People should be able to have at least five,” she said. “They’re great for a million reasons, they’re so good for the environment,” adding that having backyard chickens allows residents to collect their own eggs and create their own compost.