News / Vancouver

Vancouver’s $20,000 homeless chicken shelter plan never hatched

Vancouver’s plan to build a coop for abandoned chickens was a bad egg.

There simply haven’t been enough homeless hens to warrant construction of a $20,000 shelter in the nearly three years since city council passed a bylaw allowing backyard chickens, a city spokesperson said Monday.

The few that are picked up are kept in a dog kennel at Vancouver Animal Control Shelter until they are placed – usually at a hobby farm, according to staff. The cash went back into the budget.

 A stray hen takes shelter next door to the bunnies. (Metro/Emily Jackson)

A stray hen takes shelter next door to the bunnies. (Metro/Emily Jackson)

The coop, included in the bylaw so stray chickens in city custody wouldn’t get stressed out living beside dogs, sparked loud squawking by Vision Vancouver’s political rivals during the 2011 election.

But few have given a cluck about chickens since then, with the city receiving about 20 complaints annually.

Just a handful of chickens have stayed at the shelter over the past three years, including a reddish hen that was dropped off in a cat carrier on Sunday by a concerned citizen that saw her wandering the streets.

The unnamed chicken hasn’t laid an egg since she’s been in her four by five foot cage next door to the bunnies, but she seems to enjoy the feed, fresh water and hay provided by the city.

Henhouse builder and founder of Duncan Martin has fostered chickens occasionally, though he said it’s unusual for people to give up on backyard coops.

“There aren’t that many people that impulsively buy chickens,” Martin said, noting his clientele is mostly families with young children. Even if their chickens stop laying eggs, many Vancouverites get “quite attached to them and let them live out their lives.”

The only time city folks typically return chickens are when they accidentally purchase roosters, which are banned for noise reasons.

There are 100 homes registered with the city to have a maximum of four hens. Martin, however, pegs the actual number of coops between 200 and 300. Some people aren’t aware they have to register, he said, while others don’t want their chickens on record in case a bird flu scare prompts a cull.

Martin recommends alerting neighbours before building a coop so as not to ruffle any feathers.

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