Opinion: Burnaby wants this family’s sweet chicken coop gone - now

Chris Campbell

Several municipalities in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver and New Westminster, allow backyard chickens with different regulations on the number allowed.

That could be grow as a City of Richmond councillor is pushing to change local bylaws to allow them in single-family homes. Burnaby resident Sherri Benjamin would love the City of Burnaby to follow suit – then she could keep the newest members of her family.

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Benjamin has a pretty sweet backyard chicken coop set up at her Smith Avenue home. You can see it in the photo above. She’s followed the trend of urban residents wanting a little bit of the country in a city setting.

But in Burnaby, of course, you aren’t allowed to do this and the family received a letter saying the chickens have to go by June 10.

“This came as both a shock and disappointment to our family, as we have had our chickens since this time last year and they have become treasured family pets to our children, to my husband and to me,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin is now fighting back, lobbying the city for a 90-day extension and a discussion about how to allow backyard chickens.

The Benjamins are a family of four with two boys who are homeschooled. Early last year, their youngest son expressed great interest in raising chickens as pets.

“He spent many hours and days researching all about what he would need to do to care for a flock, and in approximately May of last year, when his grandparents came to visit, set about a plan with his grandpa to build a small chicken coop,” Benjamin said. “They spent a week sourcing materials and building this small coop together.”

The family does have a rooster and made sure to install a “black-out” coop so the rooster doesn’t rise with the sun and make noise. According to Benjamin, there was no noise complaint – some busybody just decided to let the city known.

For Benjamin, this experience has become a great education and he “has found a sense of responsibility for his flock that he takes seriously. He has gained much knowledge regarding chickens, from the stages of embryonic growth, how to care for baby chicks as they grew to full grown birds, how to clip wings, bathe them periodically, and overall animal husbandry. We soon realized that this would not only be a learning experience for our son but was becoming a neighbourhood community-building experience. We see many local neighbours visit with our flock quite regularly and have had the opportunity to meet neighbours that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We have found opportunities to engage with local children and teach them about chickens, their egg laying, the various different colours of eggs that chickens will lay, and give them a more intimate understanding of where their food comes from. Overall, it has brought a unique camaraderie to our little neighbourhood.”    

Benjamin also discusses in her letter to the city the issue of food security.

Benjamin said she did research city bylaws, such as the animal bylaw, and added that they are vague and that chickens are not on a prohibited list.

The city has previously discussed changing the rules to adding backyard chickens, but there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for it. Sadly, with COVID-19 being more pressing, I don’t see the current council changing things. The Benjamin family is a victim of timing right now, and a lack of imagination by the city.

It’s just so sad. I see all of these benefits to having backyard chickens. If you can keep the rooster quiet, then what are the negatives?

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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