It’s been almost three years since Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver stalwarts passed a bylaw (June 8, 2010) allowing chickens to be kept in backyards.
Robertson’s opponents (and lazy journalists, bloggers, and writers of letters to the editor)—especially his unsuccessful and issues-deficient NPA opponent in the 2011 municipal election, Suzanne Anton—seized on the notion of hordes of filthy, noisy, politician-distracting poultry in an attempt to make it a flashpoint campaign topic.
Alas for Anton, no one gave a cluck about the whole affair. She was pecked to death in the election, and the spectre of property-devaluing poultry became about as controversial as, say, growing wheat.
A year after the bylaw’s passage, 25 chicken "licences" had been issued by city hall (and only seven complaints received), according to an article by Teresa Goff on the bcliving website.
Today, said Tom Hammel, the city’s deputy chief licence inspector, a lot more people are registered to throw hen parties, and the number of complaints has risen comparably. Hammel explained that fresh-omelette fanciers actually need only register online, not obtain licences, to raise between one and four (the maximum) of the birds.
No strutting roosters need apply, by the way, due to noise concerns and copyright issues with Mick Jagger.
"We have about 100 people who have registered," Hammel told the Straight by phone. "We’re getting around 20 chicken-related complaints [per year] now for the last couple of years."
Hammel explained that most of the complaints dealt with the looks or size of backyard coops, the number of hens being kept, illegal roosters, smells, or stray birds.
Sounds like most of the chicken-shit alarms raised back in 2010 have gone to ground.
Now urban chickens have raised their bobbing heads again, albeit in a faraway jurisdiction.
A recent article in the alternative news weekly Santa Fe Reporter (http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-7200-fowl-play.html) examined how the issue of keeping backyard chickens in the New Mexico town of Eldorado has significantly divided property owners in that quiet and affluent bedroom community.
There—where the matter is controlled by community covenants enacted and enforced by an elected board of directors for a homeowners’ association, not a bylaw passed by city councillors—the controversy started as neighbourly objections and escalated to threats, lawsuits, and alleged instances of assault, stalking, and trespassing.
We’re not saying that the Eldorado experience (which is still awaiting court decisions) is lurking in our future. But the article makes for entertaining and illuminating reading, and maybe Vision supporters will point to that town as an example of what Vancouverites may have avoided by having a bylaw in place (instead of a poorly worded covenant: hens there are kept as "household pets").
Meanwhile, Anton is trying to resurrect her public career by vying for the provincial Liberal nomination in Vancouver-Quilchena on February 17.
Perhaps she should ignore this article about courtroom antics involving chickens and instead start paying attention to the current trial involving a crew member of the ill-fated B.C. Ferries vessel MV Queen of the North.
After all, she is tying her political fortunes to a sinking ship.
Is that pluck? Or is she just a cluck?