Backyard Hens 101- A workshop in the District of North Vancouver

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Backyard Hens 101

Tuesday, Mar 6, 2018
6:00pm – 8:00pm
District Hall, Room B
355 West Queens Road

Are you interested in keeping backyard hens, but not sure how to get started?

Please join us for “Backyard Hens 101,” a how-to workshop being presented in partnership with the North Shore Black Bear Society and the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK).

What you’ll learn at this workshop

At this workshop, you’ll learn basic hen keeping. You’ll also learn how to set up electric fencing around your coop and run — a permit requirement — from Frank Ritcey, the Provincial WildSafe BC Coordinator.

The workshop is free, but we ask that you register in advance.

Register for the Workshop!

Poultry Lice and Mites

Just like cats and dogs, chickens can become pray to pesky parasites like fleas, lice and mites.  Regular cleaning and maintenance of your coop, and the use of diatomaceous earth and wood ash in bedding and dust baths, are a few preventative measures that are very effective.  Inspections of each hen and the coop should also be done regularly, to determine the condition of your flock and address issues quickly before they become a problematic infestation or risk the health of your birds.

Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick, list some of the common signs of any type of mite or lice infestation: dirty-looking vent feathers, decreased activity or listlessness, pale comb, changes in appetite, a drop in egg production, weight loss, feather-pulling, bald spots, redness or scabs on the skin, dull, ragged-looking feathers and spotting the bugs or nits on the chicken.

If you spot a problem with your flock, there is a range of treatment options from natural home remedies to mild pesticides.  Whether natural or chemical, any substance that kills insects should be used with caution both for our own safety as well as the safety of beneficial insects and our environment.  Chemical treatments require an egg withholding period of 2 to 30 days after application, so be sure to educate yourself on the product you choose to use.

These links provide useful information on…


Common Problems with Egg Yolks


Problems with egg yolks can be confusing and leave you wondering if it’s natural or not? When you crack your eggs open, are there odd bloody spots? Are the yolks white, or maybe there are two yellow yolks? All of these issues with the egg yolks have to do with the age of your chicken, the breed of the chicken, and how healthy they are. Your chickens eggs are an indicator as to illnesses, and certain age problems. Listed here is a few common problems with egg yolks, to help you indicate what you should do to alleviate the issues as well as if it’s normal or not.


problems with egg yolks…


Double Yolks


Double yolks can be caused by the breed of the chicken. They can also because caused by hormone introduction that causes them to ovulate faster than what they should. Double yolks also form naturally as a result of twins in a egg. The yolk splits in two inside the egg.


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Blood spots in the Yolk


Drastic temperature changes can cause blood spots in the eggs. Also when chickens have certain respiratory illnesses, and when they become old can cause blood spots.


Problems with egg yolks bloody spots Problems with Egg Yolks


Yolk-less eggs


When chickens are to young to ovulate sometimes they lay eggs with no yolks. Know also as fairy eggs or witch eggs. Also when hens do not lay for long periods of time over the winter. The first eggs that come in the spring sometimes end up with no yolks.


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White Yolks


White Yolks are caused by poor nutrition, worms, parasites, and unknown illnesses.


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Spotted or Blotched eggs


Eggs that are blotched or mottled, are caused by dewormers and some medications given to chickens when they are sick. It can also be caused by a calcium deficiency, or if the egg is rotten. Also if the chickens have eaten cotton seed meal.


problems with egg yolks mottled egg Problems with Egg Yolks


Healthy Egg yolks will be a dark yellow to deep orange colored, the whites should be clear and the yolks yellow and white should be thick. The more yellow or orange looking the yolks are the higher the yolks are in proteins and Omega Fatty Acids.

Quoted from

Keep your Chickens and Wildlife Safe: Minimize the Risk of Predator Attraction

North Vancouver is an idyllic place, an urban island nestled between ocean and mountain, surrounded by beautiful West-Coast rainforest. Proximity to nature however, means that encounters with all varieties of wildlife may be an all too common occurrence. In the interest of respecting and protecting wildlife while ensuring a safe, untroubled and un-pestered environment for ourselves, it is important that we educate ourselves to be wildlife smart. As pet owners we have a vested interest in minimizing wildlife encounters, but pet owners or not, it is important for us all to minimize encounters through responsible action and management of attractions; compost, garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders and pet food, to name a few.

The following are some suggested precautions and management.

Evaluate your environment

The first and most important question is whether your property, and neighboring area, are frequented by large predators such as bears. If you live on a greenbelt or wildlife corridor that is frequently utilized by such predators, then you must seriously consider whether keeping chickens is appropriate, and take appropriate precautions if you choose to proceed. In addition, urban animals, such as dogs and cats, may be pests or predators of chickens, and should be considered in your evaluation.

Minimize attractants

Chickens themselves are not always an attractant, often it is actually the conditions under which chickens are kept.

  • Feed-
    Do not broadcast feed your chickens. Keep feed contained in a feeder than can be easily removed at night. If you feed kitchen scraps to your hens, collect all uneaten scraps. Do not store feed in or near your coop. Similar to garbage, feed should be kept indoors or inside a closed garage where it is not easily accessible to wild animals.
  • Eggs-
    Do not allow eggs to collect inside the coop, they must be collected daily.
  • Poop-
    Maintain your coop! Keeping a clean coop will not only benefit the health of your chickens, but it will greatly minimize any wildlife attraction. It will also keep your neighbors happy! Soiled bedding should be contained within compost bins, and properly maintained. If you do not know how to optimally maintain compost, the North Shore Recycling offers free compost consultation and coaching.

Provide a robust and protected home

Remember the 3 little pigs… straw, sticks or bricks?!

Take the time to build or buy a sturdy well-built coop. A coop is an investment; you will have to spend some time and money to ensure your chickens will be well-house and safe.

  • Robust Construction
    Robust construction is necessary to deter or prevent large predators from gaining access.  Moveable coops such as chicken tractors, are wonderful to confine your chickens to an area in the garden, while you are supervising, but they are not adequate for permanent housing.  Select appropriate building materials, heavy gage screws, hardware-cloth and wood such as 2×4’s and 3/4 inch or thicker plywood, to assure the coop is heavy and strong.
  • Hardware cloth-
    Do not use net or chicken wire to build your hen enclosure; they are not strong enough to protect the hens and rodents may gain access through them.  Instead, use ½ inch or ¼ inch welded hardware cloth.
  • Latches-
    Your coop should have hasps, latches and locks which are located high and are challenging to open (a rule of thumb is that if a 3 year old can figure it out, so can a raccoon!)
  • Perimeter/ Foundation-
    Install a solid foundation and/or an underground perimeter of hardware cloth the prevent coup access by burrowing.  If your coop is lightweight, consider adding rebar to your foundation to peg the coop down and prevent it from being tipped.
  • Fencing and coop placement
    Pest and predators prefer fast food! They are far less likely to persist in efforts to gain access to your coop if it is a challenge for them. In addition to robust coop construction, it is recommended that your yard be fenced. A fence provides an additional barrier to your coop and your birds. Placement of the coop on your property in a sheltered position may also contribute to security.

Consider Deterrents

If you feel that further precautions are appropriate or necessary, you may want to consider utilizing deterrents. Deterrents are best use before a problem is established, but they may also be useful once wildlife or urban predators have located your coop and it is necessary to dissuade them from returning.


Again, we encourage the respecting and protecting of wildlife; we DO NOT endorse any extremes that are inhumane or put wildlife at risk.


The following list of deterrents may be a good place to start, these range in effectiveness depending on your pest/ predator problem:

  • marking your territory (or encouraging your dog to do it!)
  • establishing a perimeter of displeasing odors such as moth balls (which can be hung in cloth bags or socks)
  • motion sensor water jets
  • solar night eyes
  • electric fencing


Electric fences generate short high voltage direct current pulses which can pack a wallop by causing a sharp muscle contraction, but do not cause any long term or permanent damage or injury. For more detailed information on electric fences, you may want to review these excellent resources.


All of these deterrents can be found locally at the Otter Coop, Buckerfields, Princess Auto and Lee Valley Tools.

What to Feed Your Chickens: Commercial Feed, Forage, Food Scraps, and Treats

Commercial Feeds

Medicated on non-medicated?
Medicated feed is a preventative measure against coccidiosis infection in young chicks. Coccidiosis is passed between birds via feces.  Keeping chicks in clean, dry litter or on a wire mesh floor is effective at limiting exposure to feces and may be sufficient in preventing coccidiosis. Medicated feeds have been developed primarily because in commercial operations, limiting chick exposure to feces is nearly impossible. When getting your birds, it is important to enquire if they have already been vaccinated against Coccidiosis.

Chick Starter
This feed is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of hens from hatching to approximately 6 weeks of age. It contains 20 to 25% protein, which allows for initial quick and optimal development.

Grower / Pullet
This feed is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of hens from approximately 6 to 22 weeks of age (or to the laying of their first egg).  It contains 16-18% protein; this lower protein quantity actually slows development and allows hens, destined to be layers, to grow strong bones and reach adult body weight before laying begins.

Layer feed
This feed is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of hens from approximately 22 weeks of age (or the laying of their first egg) onwards. It contains 16-18% protein with the addition of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, to aid with egg development.

Feed Consistency
Feed comes in 3 consistencies: mash, crumble and pellets.  Mash is a fine flake or power, which may be fed dry or mixed with water to create a moist mash; this if often fed to chicks.  Adult feed comes in crumbles or pellets, although crumbles are preferred if they are available.

Garden Forage

Chickens will happily eat your garden weeds and common garden pests such as slugs, grubs and bugs.  Be aware however, that they may not stop at your weeds; they also love fresh seedlings and a variety of ornamental garden plants. Chickens may also eat plants that are toxic to chickens.  Chickens should be sequestered from newly seeded areas, plants you do not want damaged, as well as toxic plants.  We recommend that you read up on what common garden plants are toxic to chickens. offers this great resource list of toxic plants.

Kitchen Scraps


You may supplement your chickens’ diet with cooked or raw leftovers from the kitchen.  You may feed them items that are bruised or overripe, but do not feed them anything that is so rotten you wouldn’t eat it yourself.  Do not feed them candies or sweets, anything high in salt, citrus, raw or green potato, avocado peel or pits, raw eggs, dried or uncooked beans. Backyard chickens provides a wonderful chart of produce and food scraps that can be fed to chickens.



Just like the offerings from your favorite bakery, treats are yummy but do not contain balanced nutrition and should remain treats not regular diet items!

Chicken Scratch
This is a treat made of a mixture of various grains such as wheat, rye, corn.

Earth Worms, Meal Worms and Crickets
These are available live or freeze dried at many pet or bait and tackle shops.  Live critters provide chick

ens with enrichment and the opportunity to hone hunting skill.  They also provide a great deal of entertainment for you!

Other Nutritional Requirements

Chickens do not have teeth, and therefore need to consume sand, small stones and grit to aid with the grinding of consumed food within the digestive system.  If you are feeding your chickens whole grains, scratch or food scraps, you must also provide access to some form of grit.

Oyster or Egg Shell
In order to lay eggs with strong and well formed shells chickens require a diet that is high in calcium and other minerals.  You must provide your chickens with a calcium rich dietary supplement such as oyster shell. Their own egg shells are also an excellent calcium supplement, however special care must be given if you intend to feed them to your chickens. If chickens recognize they are eating egg, they may develop the habit of pecking, eating and destroying their eggs before you have a chance to collect them.  To ensure they do not resemble eggs, egg shells should be washed, dried and ground down to fine chips or powder before being fed to chickens.

Breed Selection

5834420305_2de19277dcChicken breeds vary greatly in traits worth considering when selecting your own backyard flock.  The Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart is a thorough and recommended resource.

Egg Qualities and Production
Egg qualities such as size and colour, along with the frequency, reliability and duration of peak egg production, are obvious considerations in breed selection for a backyard flock of laying hens.  While these traits are important, there are many other, perhaps less obvious, traits to consider.

Breeds range in social temperament from very tame and cuddly to aloof and flighty.  Handling your chickens regularly, hand-feeding treads and/or hand-raising chicks will improve socialization in all breeds. Breeds that are on the aloof and flighty end of the spectrum are often better adapted to free ranging because they will tend to alarm quickly and flee from predators. Breeds on the tame and cuddly end of the spectrum are generally less reactive to environmental stresses and may better tolerate confinement.

As our bylaws in the City of North Vancouver do not allow for free-ranging hens but rather keeping hens contained and protected at all times within an enclosed run, a selection of breeds that tolerate confinement well may be more desirable to ensure the health and happiness of your flock.

Environmental Compatibility
Vancouver winters are usually fairly mild, long, dark and wet; our summers are fairly mild and short.  Considering the environment while selecting breeds, and choosing breeds that are well suited to local conditions, can translate to a flock that is easy to maintain without a lot of extra care. If you were to select breeds that are commonly raised in the tropics, for example, they will require extra consideration such as a sheltered run, or an insulated and perhaps heated coop.

Purpose: Layers, Broilers, Fryers and Roasters
For obvious reasons, breeds developed for meat are often referred to as broilers, fryers or roasters; and they are generally larger, heavier birds.  Breeds developed for egg production are referred to as layers; and are typically lighter, leaner birds. Certain breeds meeting both criteria may be referred to as hybrids. In breed selection, bear in mind that meat birds will generally consume greater quantities of feed.  Layers will be more economical eaters, if only slightly.

For Show
Your interest in breed selection may be the chickens’ varied, unique or rare physical traits.  Some fancier breeds may be very high maintenance as far as chickens go, but as small flock owners, we can afford to be picky with our birds, providing we are willing to make the effort to meet their special needs.  You may also consider joining a local poultry fanciers association or attend poultry shows or fairs.

Links and Resources

The City of North Vancouver: Urban Chicken Keeping

The City of North Vancouver: Urban Chicken Keeping
Alex Kurnicki/ The City of North Vancouver

Image credit: Alex Kurnicki

Welcome potential and current chicken keepers in the City of North Vancouver!
On September 17th, 2012, Council passed amendments to the Zoning and Small Creatures Bylaw permitting the keeping of chickens (hens only) in the City of North Vancouver.A summary of the conditions under which City residents are permitted to keep chickens are summarized as follows:

  • Only residents living in Single Unit Presidential (OCP-R1) zoned dwellings are permitted to keep chickens
  • Residents are permitted to keep up to 8 hens
  • No roosters are permitted
  • No sale of eggs or slaughter of chickens permitted
  • Residents must follow Urban Chicken Guidelines (see link below) for the proper care and housing of chickens
  • Minimize the risk of predation and foraging by bears, coyotes, skunks, rats and raccoons through proper and secure pen and coop construction
  • Secure feed to eliminate the risk of pest intrusion and spoilage
  • Follow applicable bylaws (see link below)
  • No permits are required

Urban Chicken Guidelines

The Guidelines are intended to provide an introduction and general overview for the care of your chickens. They are not intended to be the only information prospective chicken keepers should review and consider to keep chickens. Prospective keepers are encouraged to seek out other web resources, books and shared experience from other keepers. For example, plans for coop designs are available on the Internet or from books. Residents are encouraged to encouraged to contact fellow chicken owners through Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK) North Vancouver to find out information on upcoming courses and to exchange information.

Document Links


Ready for the Soup Pot?

Certainly the majority of urban backyard hen owners are interested in fun and entertaining pets who provide a really great service in payment for being well loved!  The frequent or regular slaughter of hens for the purpose of meat is not something we are all comfortable with.  However unfortunate, the occasion may arise when it is appropriate or necessary to cull your backyard flock.

As urban hen keepers, many of us have no experience or desire to acquire experience in the preforming of humane slaughter; nor can the urban environment be recommended as an appropriate setting for the safe and sanitary preparation of hens for consumption.  So what options do you have?

  • Several local veterinarians treat chickens; and where appropriate, they will euthanize hens for a fee.  While this options is certainly what we recommend as the safest and kindest option, it does render your hens as inedible.

Dr. Anne McDonald
Night Owl Bird Hospital
1669 West 3rd Ave, Vancouver

Dr. Sharon Prus
King George Animal Hospital
902 – 7380 King George Highway, Surrey

Dr. Linda Schild and Dr. Michelle Levesque
Kennedy Heights Animal & Bird Hospital
8614 – 120th Street, Surrey

Dr. Adrian Walton
Dewdney Animal Hospital
11965 – 228th Street, Maple Ridge

Dr. Willem Zwamborn
Albatross Veterinary Services
45 – 216th Street, Langley

  • The BC Centre for Disease Control list of provincially licensed meat processors has published, as of July 31, 2012, the following poultry processors in the Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas.

Stephen W.M. Lau
Fairline Development Canada (1992) Ltd
2391 Vauxhall Place, Richmond

Abe Falk
Fraser Valley Duck & Goose Farm
4540 Simmons Road, Chilliwack