By Rudy Haugeneder – Oak Bay News
Published: January 11, 2012 7:00 AM

Fraser Campbell wants to raise chickens in his backyard.

But his 1189 Roslyn Rd. home and backyard are too small to get a chicken permit under Oak Bay’s existing Animal Control Bylaw, which governs chicken coops and the number of birds a homeowner can keep in their yard.

That may soon change.

Oak Bay’s new mayor and council last week asked planners to look at ways to make it easier for people such as Campbell to get a poultry-keeping permit needed to raise chickens in the municipality.

“There’s no reason why on a small lot you cannot have five chickens,” said Campbell, a web developer who works from home. He estimated it takes about 16 square feet per chicken to keep hens.

He said urban food production is important on Vancouver Island, which grows less than 10 per cent of its own food and would be in dire straits if an earthquake or other natural disaster shut down the ferries for a longer period of time.

Council is looking to make a bylaw amendment, but needs more information before changing existing regulations.

In addition to reducing chicken permit lot sizes, council wants planners to look how Saanich and the City of Vancouver deal with the issue of limiting the number of chickens and chicken coops.

One councillor, Kevin Murdoch, said Oak Bay has “eight official chicken coops” inside its boundaries and at least another 25 unofficial coops and small flocks.

Last September the previous council told planners to prepare a bylaw amendment to reduce the lot size required for keeping poultry.

Roy Thomassen, director of building and planning, recommended the lot size be reduced to 557 square metres – large enough for three chickens and down from the previous 745 sq. m minimum which allowed for a coop and five chickens. The existing bylaw allows for up to 10 chickens on lots larger than 4,047 sq. m.

Murdoch, noting there have been no complaints to the municipality about clucking chickens, called the existing rules “bizarre” and restrictive to people who want to produce their own eggs.

Doug Clarke has a coop and five chickens in his backyard at 1199 Hampshire Rd.

The modest flock lays three to five eggs daily.

“I haven’t bought eggs in three years,” Clarke said.

He knows another dozen Oak Bay residents who also want to raise egg-laying chickens. It’s all part of a growing movement towards food security, which involves growing some of the food you eat – something he said the new council “is gung ho about.”

Clarke, who built his own chicken coop to comply with Oak Bay’s standards, spent about $300 on recycled and salvaged wood, compared to the $800 to $1,200 most others pay for a pre-built coop.

The henhouses are inspected by Oak Bay before a permit allowing chickens is issued.

Clarke said it takes “commitment” to raise chickens. He’s proud to show his two children, aged three and five, where food comes from.

“I want my kids to know food does not just come from the market.”