Raising chickens and keeping bees in your backyard has become easier in Oak Bay after municipal council approved amendments to existing bylaws, relaxing the rules on minimum setbacks and yard size.
Poultry and bees can now be kept on all residential properties with the amount dictated by property size. Properties less than 1,114 square metres can now have a maximum of five chickens, turkeys or ducks, while larger properties can have up to 10. Previously, small lot owners were not allowed to keep poultry.
Beekeeping is limited to two beehives on properties less than 930 square metres and capped at four for larger properties. However, no poultry can be kept in the Uplands.
Oak Bay homeowner and president of the B.C. Bee Breeders association Barry Denluck welcomed the changes.
“I’m very happy to see Oak Bay respond to our request,” Denluck said. He asked council last year to make it easier for people to keep bees in their yards. “There has been many wanting-to-be beekeepers patiently waiting for this amendment.”
“I am really happy council has agreed to this change,” said resident Doug Clarke, who already owns five chickens. “It’s a really good small step in the right direction.”
Clarke’s property was already large enough to allow for a chicken coop under the previous bylaw, but he felt it was unfair that small lot owners were not allowed to raise poultry.
“I had a lot of people coming to me asking, ‘why can’t I have chickens?’” Clarke said, adding he was surprised it took two years for the change to happen.
Oak Bay councillor Tara Ney acknowledged it took a while for changes to be enacted, but there was a process that needed to be followed which included researching what other communities are doing and getting community feedback. She said council has always been supportive of making the change.
“Our bylaws are often idiosyncratic and often it looks like we are putting up barriers, when instead we should be enabling people to do these kind of things,” Ney said. “This really gives the signal that council is 100 per cent supportive of people in our community engaging in local food production.”
Ney added the municipality is looking at other ways to encourage local food production.
“It hasn’t come forward yet, but we are looking at ways to enhance local food security initiatives,” she said, explaining that opening more community gardens is one option being explored. “We don’t have a lot of plots of land to do that, so we have to be creative. Our initiatives have to be tailor-made to the geography in our community.”
Bylaw enforcement officer Ben Manning said there aren’t many people raising poultry and bees in their backyards, estimating 10 for both. He said those planning to raise poultry or have bees must still register, for free, with the district and they will be given information about the newly relaxed rules.