Survey says: chickens OK in Saanich backyards

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it’s being welcomed into Saanich with relatively open arms.

The results of the municipality’s backyard chicken survey shows that 84 per cent of respondents supported the presence of feathered friends in local yards.

“It’s a very positive step,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who’s campaigned for Saanich to bring its bylaws up to par with neighbouring municipalities. “It puts us on a course of action that allows us to begin to address food security and local production.”

Council will receive a recommendation from staff in the next few weeks about how to best to change existing rules. There will also be more in-depth dialogue around potential issues.

The majority of the 528 survey respondents supported allowing chickens on properties with an area of at least 560 square-metres, the smaller of the two residential zoning options proposed.

Saanich planner Jane Evans says if council approves the 560 sq.-m. option, as many as 77 per cent of Saanich’s 32,500 single family homes will be eligible to have backyard chickens.

The bylaw, if approved, would allow for up to five hens – though not roosters – to be kept in a pen in the backyard of a single family lot. Eggs can’t be sold and the chickens can’t be slaughtered.

The current bylaw prohibits keeping fowl on lots smaller than 1,115 sq.-m.

There are still a number of options on the table that council needs to discuss, including how chickens and coops will be mandated.

“We’d highly recommend there be a registration process so the properties can be identified and we’ll be able to disseminate information to the owner,” Evans said.

Murdock, chair of the healthy Saanich advisory committee, now hopes to use these results to springboard to working on an urban food production strategy and action plan before spring.

“There’ll always be a growing marketplace for the local farmer, but we need to put in mechanisms that open up that marketplace even more for local food producers,” he said, citing initiatives like pocket markets, allotment gardens and green roofs.

“We’ll hopefully be bringing Saanich into harmony with the regulations of our neighbouring jurisdictions. If you move from Victoria to Saanich, you can bring your chickens with you.”

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