Keeping chickens in urban areas

Photo by Analyn Cuarto
Photo by Analyn Cuarto

Benefits of backyard birds

By Colten Kamlade, Senior Columnist
There has been an increasingly heated debate in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. It began in 2013 and has gone in and out of the spotlight ever since.

As of last week, it is once again the main source of contention between residents in the two cities. The proposal of backyard chickens and whether they ought to be allowed is being either vehemently opposed or showered with laudation. Maple Ridge currently permits chicken coops on plots of land that are one acre or more, but it is the minority of residents who own so much property. So, why are chickens not allowed on smaller plots, and is this fair?

Firstly, the noise level bothers some residents. Though hens do not make as much noise as roosters, they still cluck incessantly. If you’re living next to irritable neighbours, this can be a problem. I would still argue, however, that while hens can be noisy, a yappy dog or a neighbour who likes to play his music loudly is still more of a disturbance.

Secondly, it is thought that chicken coops attract rats. Though it is common for rats and chickens to come hand in hand, it does not always have to be the case. Rats are attracted by chickenfeed, but if a coop is well maintained, excess food should be removed before nightfall. If this is done properly rats should not be a problem. Similarly, smell should be eliminated with proper maintenance.

Now, let’s look at the benefits of having backyard chickens. The most obvious is that families can save money on food. Two hens should produce one or two eggs a day. Assuming you have a four-person family, a handful of chickens should ensure you never have to buy a carton of eggs again.

Another benefit is environmental. If you can start producing a large portion of your food in your own backyard, you can decrease your carbon footprint. Of course, eggs are just one part of this. Growing fruit and vegetables is the next step in leading an eco-friendlier life.

A final benefit is that you can introduce children to agricultural work. Less and less people are going into fields related to agriculture. This could be because suburban and urban children never have the opportunity to nurture an interest in it. Backyard chickens could help revitalize these fields of work by getting children involved at an early age.

Backyard chickens are not going to ruin your neighbourhood. They won’t keep you up late at night or wake you up first thing in the morning. They will help families save money, expand their interests, and keep the planet healthy.