Open letter to Dave Stockdale, his fellow city councillors and Mayor Bev Buckway:
The 2010 Whitehorse Official Community Plan was adopted by city council on October 12, 2010.
This plan was given accolades and awards for its focus on sustainable community development.
One of the many initiatives to achieve this honour focused on sustainable food production through the use of community gardens and other “non-soil-based agriculture such as backyard chickens.”
If our civic leaders are to feel deserving of these accolades, they must first follow through with the initiatives and start changing outdated city bylaws. More than 300 cities in North America, including Vancouver and New York, have amended their bylaws to allow urban chickens. In our neck of the woods, Anchorage is currently working on a land-use revision that will allow up to five hens in lots of 6,000 square feet, or less, and more in larger lots. As of 2010, an ordinance passed in Juneau allowed up to six hens in most land use zones in the city and borough of Juneau. Reasons for not changing our bylaws are probably a lack of understanding, so here are some facts for you to ponder.
Chickens (hens) are quiet; roosters are noisy. Most city bylaws in cities throughout North America allow for up to six hens, but don’t allow roosters.
Aside from the occasional cooing and clucking, the noise issue is a moot point. Dogs bark at night way after dark at times, yet hens don’t make a peep after the sun goes down.
The amount of chicken manure produced by six hens is roughly equivalent to the dog droppings produced by a medium-large dog. And, unlike dog or cat poop, chicken manure can be easily composted into fabulous garden fertilizer.
Most backyard chicken enthusiasts recognize this benefit and ensure their coops and runs are cleaned on a regular basis and composted for their gardens. This produces wonderful yields for growing vegetables, which, in turn, makes our city even more sustainable.
Hens produce about one egg a day if the amount of light is between 16 and 18 hours a day Ã easily obtained by a lightbulb on a timer.
This amounts to 30 dozen a year. At $5/dozen for free range eggs, that’s a savings of $150/year. With four chickens, $600 a year.
Our family currently consumes about four eggs per day. That is significant for us. Combine this with savings from growing our own vegetables and it’s a no-brainer.
The fear that our neighbourhoods would be overrun with chickens, or would attract unwanted wildlife is unfounded. Backyard chicken enthusiasts understand the work and investment involved in making their coops and runs safe from predators.
Although there are savings, there is a significant initial investment and upkeep that would dissuade all but the most enthusiastic lovers of chickens.
Chickens do bring out the best in us. Caring for an animal is therapeutic and enjoyable. My daughter thoroughly enjoys feeding them and finding their eggs in the coop Ã Easter all year round. They really do have personalities and are a joy to watch from our deck.
Unfortunately, all these benefits are coming to an end due to one complaint.
We are in violation of a bylaw, but I would ask city council to move forward and act on the changes announced in their much-applauded OCP.
We would be willing to take part in a pilot program if the city needs more research on the subject.
Ralph, Joie and Erin McBryan