A pair of Mission seniors are crying fowl over the District’s bylaws restricting them from keeping hens on their property.
On Aug. 4, Frank and Laurianne Muermann received a letter on their doorstep from a district bylaw enforcement officer saying they are violating zoning restrictions for urban-residential property.
In order to keep their four hens, they would need to be zoned agricultural or small-scale agricultural with four or 1.8 acres available, respectively, according to the letter.
It states they need to get rid of their hens from the property within 30 days, or face daily fines of $450.
“The whole thing is so bloody asinine,” said Frank Muermann. “There must be a million people in the Greater Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island, and they’re all allowed chickens.
And Mission, with our 40,000 people, doesn’t allow [hens]. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Citizens of Vancouver, Langley, Delta and Surrey are able to keep up to four hens on their property without the need for special zoning. Meanwhile, West Vancouver allows owners to keep six hens, North Vancouver allows eight and Victoria allows 20.
Bylaw officers gave the couple an extension until Sept. 29 to evict the chicks, according to the District, and tried to work with property owners to ensure voluntary compliance, after the initial complaint was made in July.
“Fines are a last step,” said Taryn Hubbard, manager of communications for the District. “If the chickens remain on the property after this date, bylaw officers may send a notice stating a $450 fine.
“To date, this property has not been fined.”
The Muermann said their property is 9,000 square feet, more than double the minimum requirement in Greater Vancouver of 4,000 square feet.
“Most of our neighbours weren’t even aware that we had chickens. They’re so nice and quiet. Those chickens are so tame and so well behaved. They follow us around like little puppy dogs. They are our pets.
“There’s dogs all over the place that are barking everyday at 100 times the volume, and nobody complains.”
Noisy, Charlotte, Becky, and Grumpy (the four hens) are properly taken care of, their feed is secure and the eggs are only used for personal consumption, the Muermanns said. They live in their “Chicken Condo,” a special coop constructed by another neighbour.
And the entire backyard is practically already small-scale agriculture, according to the Muermanns, who grow raspberries, peaches, apricots, carnation grapes, apples – all secluded with an eight-foot fence on all sides.
“We are producing more value in the little backyard on 9,000 square feet than some farmers produce on a quarter section,” Muermann said. “Everybody’s heard of the Great Wall of China – we’ve got the ‘Three Green Walls of Mission.’”
The couple says they have walked around the neighbourhood and gathered 37 signatures for a petition to the district, in a plea to keep their pets.
Only one neighbour was adamant in opposition, according to the Muermanns, adding they suspect she’s the one who made the complaints.
“She told me … ‘It is the law.’” Muermann said.
The District said they made updates and improvements to small-scale agriculture in the zoning bylaw on Sept.8, but further review was needed to “explore opportunities for urban agriculture, including the keeping of chickens and bees.”
“At this time, the current zoning bylaw regulations stand and will continue to prohibit chickens in the urban area.”
Muermann said he had a meeting over the bylaw with the Mayor and council, but said he “got nowhere.”
“Our councillors are so fortunate. Governments all over the world are worried about the global pandemic; ours are just worried about how to get rid of our four little chicken pets.”