KAMLOOPS - Urban hens are easier to take care of than dogs, at least according to one Kamloops woman who has kept the birds on her property for three years.
While some city councillors are concerned proposed changes to the animal control bylaw could result in noise, smell and wildlife issues if chickens are allowed to be kept on city properties, Lyann Wourms says there is little to worry about. She owns a small flock and says the birds are nearly effortless to take care of, comparing it to taking care of a cat.
“They're super low maintenance,” she says. “It’s awesome.”
As long as they have some food pellets, water and a little bit of room to move about and graze, she says the birds are relatively independent.
Wourms and her husband take care of their four hens in the backyard of their half-acre lot. The coop is about five feet tall and a couple feet wide and there’s an additional area closed off with chicken wire that’s about four by four feet, though she says the birds are often also allowed to spend time in the backyard.
Hen owners do have to look out for mites and lice on the birds, she notes, but noise is not usually an issue — aside from the odd squawk when laying an egg the hens tend to be quiet. She says traffic, dogs and wild birds can be significantly louder.
They put the poop from the coop into compost away from areas with people, something Wourms says might be difficult for people on smaller properties.
In the winter the birds stay in the coop mostly, partly because they don’t like snow and if it get’s below -20 Celsius she turns a heat lamp on.
In return, she says they get about four eggs a day.
Even though Wourms' property backs on to forested crown land, she says animals like bears haven’t been a problem with her chickens, with one going for a pear tree in her yard while leaving the birds alone. Her other pets, a cat and two dogs, also leave the birds alone.
WildSafe B.C. coordinator Frank Ritcey says he is OK with hens in urban areas, but suggests they should be protected by an electric fence in order to keep bears away. The proposed bylaw changes note electric fences as useful for keeping hens, but do not make them a requirement.
In May 2014, city council allowed Wourms to keep her hens until a report reviewing urban hens came back to council. Proposed changes to the current bylaw, changes which will allow people to have backyard chickens, are now going to public hearing June 14.
— This story was corrected at 3:23 p.m., May 13, 2016, to identify the proposed bylaw changes as an update to a current bylaw, and not an entirely new bylaw, and to edit for style.
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