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Port Moody to consider allowing backyard chickens despite concerns about wildlife attacks

A Port Moody family that's raising five chickens in a backyard coop has convinced city councillors they should consider allowing such urban farming initiatives in the city.
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Dana Dunne says in the year they've had chickens and a coop in the backyard of their Port Moody home, they haven't had an issue with predators like bears or cougars trying to get at them.

Five hens clucking contentedly as they scratch for grubs and lay eggs in the backyard coop of a Port Moody home could be getting company.

A request to allow backyard chickens will be placed on an upcoming agenda, city council decided, after hearing a couple’s plea for permission to keep their fowl because the egg-layers are beneficial to their family and the neighbourhood.

Dana and Keith Dunne have been tending their chickens for a year, using them to put fresh eggs on their breakfast table and educate their three sons about sustainability and food security.

“It is the best learning experience we have given our children so far,” Dana Dunne told councillors.

Currently Port Moody has no bylaw that specifically covers backyard chickens. It treats them the same as household pets; they’re allowed, but only if they’re primarily kept “within a dwelling unit.”

After a complaint, the family was sent a letter advising them they are in contravention of city bylaws and the Dunnes were given a month to get rid of the chickens.

Keith Dunne said the family embarked upon its chicken project after studying bylaws and procedures of other suburban communities like North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, Delta and New Westminster that do allow backyard chickens. They built their poultry enclosure only after soliciting approval from their neighbours, with whom they’re only too happy to share the bounty of farm-fresh eggs.

Dunne said the chickens’ manure is collected and turned back into the soil as fertilizer for their vegetable garden so there’s no smell and the birds spend the night in the secured enclosure, safe from predators. He added since the chickens have been part of the family, their backyard has yet to be visited by a bear or cougar.

“Attractants are more severe with mismanaged bird feeders and food waste disposal,” he said.

Fear the chickens could become a backyard smorgasbord for hungry wildlife was uppermost in the minds of several councillors.

“We have all sorts of characters that would love to get at the chickens,” Coun. Hunter Madsen said.

“I would hate to see children watching a cougar get at their chickens,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth, adding an effort by another resident a few years ago to raise quail for their eggs and protein ended tragically when a bear broke into their enclosure and feasted on the little birds.

But Coun. Zoe Royer said proper regulations and education to ensure pens are constructed securely and feed is managed properly will minimize the risk from predators.

“If Port Moody rolls this out, the education piece will be really important,” she said.