LETTER: Backyard hens an eggcellent idea

From readers Abby Wilson and Andrew Woodward

Re: “The case for backyard hens,” April 4

Moving to Nelson was the best decision we ever made, but there was one sad compromise — we had to say goodbye to our beloved backyard hens Glinda, Dorothy, and Elphaba.

Our three hens provided fresh eggs and garden fertilizer. They cleaned up kitchen scraps and enthusiastically shredded our compost and yard waste. They were the perfect compliment to our backyard garden and allowed us to create a small urban homestead in our old city. They were also a source of endless entertainment: throw a handful of cherry tomatoes into a chicken run and see what happens!

Chickens are now allowed in many communities, from Vancouver to Squamish to Silverton. Not only do they provide eggs and help with veggie growing, they support a resilient food system within the city itself.

Some of our Nelson neighbours might have concerns about backyard hens, so as former urban chicken owners, we’d like to share a few points.

Worried about predators? So were we! Waking up to a coop of messily devoured chickens is our worst nightmare! Our chickens were protected with a series of defensive layers: electric fencing around a large outdoor run, quarter-inch hardware cloth dug into the ground for a smaller covered run, and a solid coop with raccoon-proof latches.

How about noise? Our three hens were very quiet, gentling clucking as they pecked around their run. Dorothy would let out a bit of a squawk after laying an exceptionally large egg, but we bet you would too if you were in her position!

Smell? You would be shocked at how quickly and efficiently chicken manure can be composted with chickens turning everything over using their scratchy little dinosaur feet. And as long as the compost is working properly there are no fowl odours.

Back in 2011, city staff recommended proceeding with a bylaw amendment to allow chickens (they even drafted a new bylaw!), but this issue keeps dropping down the priority list for council. A comprehensive bylaw will permit hens in city limits and lay out standards for care and protection, keeping everyone from chickens to neighbours to bears safe and happy.

Go to https://nelsonbackyardhens.wordpress.com to learn more about backyard hens in Nelson. You can complete an online survey by April 19 and share your opinion for the chance to win a gift certificate for Ellison’s Market. And if you’re super keen about hens, go the extra step and write a letter of support to city council.

The groundwork for backyard hens has already been laid — there’s no need to wing it. It’s time to egg our city council on and hatch a plan to make backyard hens a reality for Nelson!

Abby Wilson and Andrew Woodward


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