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Owner feels blue about Orangey the wayward hen

Dec 18 2011

A woman whose pet chicken has been apprehended by the B.C. SPCA, is hoping her beloved Orangey will make it home one day.

"It's my fault," said Jessica Hall, who owns several chickens as pets. "The chickens were in the backyard when I wasn't home, but they normally stay put."

She believes a stray dog got into her yard and chased Orangey, confusing her. The chicken ended up in a neighbour's driveway.

The neighbour called the Alberni-Clayoquot branch of the B.C. SPCA, and Deb Thierstein responded from the shelter.

"We got a call about a dog at large going after some chickens," Thierstein said. "We found her [the chicken] hiding in a car port."

The hen was taken to the shelter, but can't be returned to Hall because city bylaws prohibit residents from keeping chickens as pets within city limits.

"We hold the animal control contract and must uphold the bylaws," shelter manager Irene Towell explained. "That puts us in an awkward position."

Towell said she has made contact with Hall and would really like to see the chicken go back to its home, but her hands are tied.

"It's probably a good idea for people to be aware of this," she said.

She said farmyard animals such as goats, pigs and sheep are also prohibited as pets within the city limits.

Shelter staff have been trying to work out a solution with Hall, suggesting that if she had a friend who lived outside the city limits who might be willing to take the chicken home, then it could be released.

"We do miss our chicken and want her back," Hall said.

Hall explained that she has lived in the city for seven years and has been keeping chickens for about six months. She prefers not to say how many.

She said they make excellent pets.

"They've never laid a single egg, but they eat my compost."

She said her daughter Bella loves their chickens, and that the animals interact well with children.

Hall was surprised to learn Port Alberni has a bylaw prohibiting chickens as pets.

"I did some research after this happened," she said. "Many other cities have changed their bylaws on this."

She says her research has shown that Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo and even New York City have changed bylaws to allow residents within city limits to keep chickens as pets.

While Orangey was still in SPCA care over the past few days, Hall said she hopes something can be worked out so she can be released.

"I do commend the efforts of the SPCA," she said. "They were just doing their job. I am not at all angry with them."

City officials could not be reached for comment on the bylaw.

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