There are animals you expect to find in a Vancouver park, squirrels, crows, maybe a raccoon if you're lucky and a skunk (if you're not). But locals are reporting semi-frequent sightings of an animal more suited to a barnyard than an urban greenspace—chickens.
Posts on Reddit that read: "chicken on the loose," "whose chicken is this?" and "come get your chicken," document a history of the birds running amok in the city with each post amassing countless comments of others sharing their chicken sighting stories.
A recent story reports "a fairly plump chicken" near Oak Park at Shaughnessy Street and Park Drive. V.I.A. reached out to the poster but didn't receive a reply, however, another Redditor confirmed in a message they have seen the same bird for the last two years.
Similarly, Jackson Belec says he saw a chicken "hanging out on the sidewalk" near McSpadden Park. He was worried so he knocked on the nearest door. "A woman answered the door and thanked me for checking in, but said that it is her neighbour's chicken and it roams freely all the time," he tells V.I.A.
He hasn't seen the chicken since but admits he doesn't walk through the area very often.
The Backyard Hens Program was approved by the City of Vancouver Council in 2010 and allows residents to have up to four hens (no roosters) provided they are registered and the owners obtain a permit, according to John Gray, Manager of Animal Services.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, the permit must be renewed annually "to help the City’s Animal Services better track where hens are located throughout Vancouver so that residents can be reached and notified in the case of a disease outbreak," he says.
The permits and renewals are free and must be completed by Jan. 15 of each year.
What happens when chickens escape?
In 2022, Animal Services received 22 enquiries regarding chickens. Despite the apparent frequency of these loose chicken sightings, Gray says that only two of these calls pertained to at-large chickens.
Overall the calls are down a little bit from the year before (2021), when Animals Services received 24 chicken enquiries, three of which pertained to loose chickens.
If residents spot a chicken wandering around Vancouver, they are asked to call 311.
According to the Animal Control Bylaw, backyard hens must be contained in a coop and if they are found to have escaped owners may be subject to a $250 fine for an at-large hen and a $17 impounding fee.
There are also a series of rules in place for backyard hen coops to keep them from "being a nuisance for your neighbours," according to the city's website. The rules also prevent "backyard slaughtering" as well as other forms of husbandry (raising animals for meat, fibre, milk, eggs, and other by-products) which are not allowed in Vancouver.