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Backyard hens prove popular with neighbours

Isabella the hen is safe in the arms of this head chef, Chris Remington of Penticton. The food master of Lakeside Resort uses two hens to educate his children on where eggs come from.
April 12, 2013 - 8:00 AM

Chickens make the best customers. They always know what they want and they are easy to please.

Nadine Remington of Penticton watches her two children play with the family's hens Candice and Isabella in her backyard. The two kids pretend their play house is a Sonic drive-through restaurant and the chickens are customers.

"The kids had a blast. They had them up on the window box," Nadine says, asking what the chickens would like to eat.

Nadine does not live on a farm. She and her husband Chris Remington live in suburban Penticton on Woodruff Avenue. Inside the home are three different varieties of chicks living in their own box warmed by a heat lamp. Outside the two hens have their own coop and the backyard.

Chris, who is also Lakeside Resort's head chef, is happy to have them. They provide fresh eggs almost every morning and his children are educated about where their food comes from. It's recently been allowed under the City of Penticton's backyard chicken trial project. City councillors want to gauge the public's appetite for it. The project allows a maximum of five hens, but no roosters or animal slaughter and the coops and yards have to be kept clean.

Chris says it's part of a North American trend. He and Nadine were already raising "illegal, renegade" chickens before the city even started its project.

The three chicks inside the Remington's home require food, water and warmth. Outside the two hens have their coop. They are fed a mix of leftover vegetables, ripened fruits, store-bought chicken feed and whatever crawls on the ground or grows on a vine. Other than that, the impact is minimal. He built the coop, roosts and nesting boxes out of spare wood and wrapped it in chicken wire he had laying around. He estimates it would cost $30 for the materials.

And the chickens are not used as food. They lay eggs almost every day provided the eggs are removed. Chris said these hens wouldn't taste good anyhow. The meat of adult hens is too tough.

The backyard-hen-trend might be spreading but some cities decided it wasn't for them. Kelowna and Calgary both started their projects but decided they will not allow backyard chickens, but Chris said there are many B.C. communities allowing hens on non-farming properties.

Nadine said the chickens are very clean. They never poop where they nest or rest and it is easy to pick up after them.

She added the chickens also make great pets.

"We come out and talk to them," Chris says.

When the chickens cluck at 6:30 a.m. their children might say: "The girls woke me up, mom."

They've never had a complaint about the noise or about the chickens themselves for that matter.

"There's ladies in this apartment who say, 'we love to watch your chickens when ironing,'" Nadine says.

The chef said neighbours would walk up the lane beside his fence, lean on it and watch the chickens eat, clean their feathers or attack the chef's grape vines.

The two light-brown feathered birds were clucking and plucking at the backyard grass as Chris was interviewed. It was hard not to stare at them. The pair seemed curious about everything. Nadine said Isabella sometimes does a little dance.

Curious neighbours are even thinking of following them into the trial project.

"(One neighbour) said, 'as soon as it starts let me know. I'm from Alberta and we used to have chickens growing up. I want my kids to understand where food comes from,'" Chris says.

Next-door neighbour Pam Hartmann says her three girls love the chickens.

"They came over and petted them and my three girls thought it was so neat. They even brought them to my pre-school and all the kids flocked to them."

For more information about the trial chicken project call the city planning department at 250-490-2501 or go to Backyard Hens Pilot Project . The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Monday.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca or call 250-488-3065.

Isabella and Candice enjoy some yogurt. The two hens feast on leftover vegetables, bugs, some chicken feed and whatever else they find.
Isabella and Candice enjoy some yogurt. The two hens feast on leftover vegetables, bugs, some chicken feed and whatever else they find.

Inside the Remington's home on Woodruff Avenue are three chicks the family is raising.
Inside the Remington's home on Woodruff Avenue are three chicks the family is raising.

Chris Remington built this chicken coop for the two family hens. Nadine Remington said the chickens make great pets.
Chris Remington built this chicken coop for the two family hens. Nadine Remington said the chickens make great pets.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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