Photo: Radka Zitkova

Laura Keil
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Valemount could join the ranks of Vancouver, Toronto, New York and Chicago if it passes a bylaw allowing residents to raise hens for eggs in their backyards.

The idea appears in the draft animal control bylaw presented to Valemount Council last week based on recommendations from the animal control bylaw committee struck by council several months ago.

Counc. Murray Capstick spoke out against the plan, arguing the Village is not equipped to monitor and enforce the rules if people do not adequately care for their birds.

“It’s a tough one to deal with,” he said a few days after the Council meeting. “We don’t have the staff or resources to monitor it at this time.”

But some Valley residents say it’s about time. Jim and Terry Stewart live just outside Valemount’s village boundaries where they run a small farm with beef cattle, turkeys, and chickens.

“My immediate reaction is go for it,” Jim Stewart says.

Jim and Terry say if people have young children it’s an opportunity to show them where their eggs come from, as well as how to look after birds.

“Eggs don’t come from the local IGA,” he says. “They come from something quite a bit beyond that.”

The part of the bylaw that applies to hens is borrowed from the one used in Vancouver and stipulates strict conditions for keeping up to four hens. The conditions include keeping a clean, smell-free living area and providing veterinary care to the animals.

According to the proposed bylaw, residents would be allowed to keep hens for personal use only and not sell eggs, manure, or other products derived from the hens. No owner is allowed to slaughter hens on their property and would have to do so at a designated slaughter facility.

Stewart says there would need to be a proper disposal facility for birds that have reached their lifespan, since the birds are not built for longevity. Stewart’s chickens that die naturally end up in his manure pile.

“When they do die, it’s important people have a good idea of how they’re going to dispose of them.”

Another issue is ensuring the grain feed is stored properly as not to attract mice and other rodents. The Stewarts keep several cats to take care of that problem.

Given the cost of getting a new hen, Stewart thinks people will learn quickly what works and what doesn’t.

According to a backyard chicken website based in Vancouver, depending on feed type, breed, bedding, and chicken health, you may spend anywhere from $0.60 cents to $1.50 per dozen eggs. Your operating costs won’t come close to the cost of $5-$7 per dozen a person would pay for free-range eggs in the store.

Jim Stewart said if the plan does go through, he would like to be a resource person. He agrees that monitoring and enforcement may limit the feasibility of the plan.