Burnaby motion could hatch coup for backyard chicken coops

The City of Burnaby may have cut off this chicken’s head, but it’s still running around.

Just over a month after council declined to reconsider the issue of backyard chickens, following a letter from Burnaby resident Marika Wasaznik, one councillor has stood up for local poultry.

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Coun. Joe Keithley raised a motion at this week’s council meeting to refer the issue to committee, which could hatch a coup against the city’s bylaws on backyard chickens. Several other Metro Vancouver municipalities – both North Vancouver governments, both Langleys, New Westminster and Vancouver – allow chicken coops, and Richmond is considering the issue. But Burnaby only allows them in the city’s sparse agricultural land.

Keithley, the lone Burnaby Green Party councillor, raised the issue in response to Wasaznik’s letter after being egged on by resident Sherri Benjamin, who also recently spoke to the NOW.

“Food security is a very important issue, as we have seen interruptions in our food supply chain during the COVID pandemic. I believe our council has to take this very seriously and take a look at food security from all angles,” Keithley said.

Keithley’s motion called for the city’s social planning committee to examine the backyard chickens matter and received unanimous support from council. But that doesn’t mean the issue will necessarily take flight.

City staff looked at backyard chickens in 2010, determining the birds can ruffle neighbours’ feathers, including through noise, disease and pests.

Despite several municipalities allowing a limited number of chickens in backyards, staff has consistently recommended Burnaby council buck the trend, citing the 2010 report.

That includes the April 20 meeting, when council’s silence after receiving Wasaznik’s letter prompted staff to “notify (her) of the current bylaw provisions.”

Whether Keithley’s motion will turn her cluck around remains to be seen.

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