Royal City Humane Society’s 6th Annual Variety Show September 24th

Saturday, September 24th The Royal City Humane Society is celebrating with their 6th annual Variety Show featuring great live entertainment and of course their fabulous and famous Silent Auction in Sapperton at the Pensioner’s Hall at 318 Keary Street.

Doors open at 6:30 PM and entertainment starts at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $20 each and available from Greens & Beans located at 143 East Columbia, Alpine Animal Hospital at 348 Sixth Street and VANPET at the Royal Square Shopping Mall at 800 McBride Boulevard. Tickets are also available by calling 604-524-6447 and at the door.

This year, entertainment will include The Duck Soldiers, the Westcoast Harmony Chorus and the Songbirds Singing Trio.

The Royal City Humane Society (RCHS) is a 100% volunteer run registered charity, founded by concerned New Westminster residents to deal with pet problems within our community. The RCHS maintains a shelter with approximately 30 cats and kittens, is involved in testing and treating animals for disease, vaccinating, tattooing and spaying/neutering animals, and placing homeless animals in homes through their shelter and within their foster care system. They have feeding stations for undomesticated (feral) cats that they trap, test for disease, vaccinate, tattoo, spay/neuter then release. Funding is obtained through fund raising activities, memberships and donations. Membership fees are just $20 per year. Adoptions are from their shelter are by appointment seven days a week and can be arranged by calling 604-524-6447.


Doggy Fun Days August 28th

Photo from Flickr user Jibba Jabba

Around this time last year I posted about the 11th Annual Doggy Fun Day so it should be no surprise that I’m posting again! The 12th Annual Doggy Fun Day is Sunday August 28th in Queens Park from noon till 3pm. Check out doggy-centric displays and enter the many raffles. Check out the Royal City Rockets Dog Agility Team as they perform at 12:30pm and 2:30pm. And don’t miss the best part – the doggy games! Egg & spoon races, 7 legged race, doggy look-a-like contest, special doggy tricks, and the infamous Bobbing for Wieners!

Well behaved owners are permitted and all leashed dogs welcome.

Doggy Fun Day is a FUNdraising event for Pacific Volunteer Education & Assistance Team for Animals (VEATA). For further information contact:


Chickens in New Westminster

Maybe you’re tired of paying $6 for free-range eggs (that might not be so free-range), or perhaps you want an unusual backyard inhabitant. Regardless, we seem to be in the age of the urban chicken, though to date it seems to be more talk than action; most backyards in New Westminster seem to be distressingly poultry free.

New Westminster, unlike Vancouver, has had a by-law on the books regulating the keeping of chickens   since the late 1960s (bylaw 4271, drafted in 1967 and passed in 1968).

The by-laws are a little restrictive – your lot has to be 6000 square feet in size, the poultry house must be 50 feet from the nearest inhabited building, and the chicken coop must be more than 2 or more feet from the property line.

Obviously this doesn’t fit well with most urban lots, and is not nearly as relaxed as the new by-laws passed recently in Vancouver.

I’d hummed and hawed about talking to the city about possibly relaxing their by-laws, but then I’d heard that the city officials weren’t enforcing the letter of the (by-)law unless a neighbour complained, so I stopped worrying about getting the rules changed, and instead, focused on getting chickens.

Step one – select a breed of chicken. Like most domesticated animals, there are many breeds of chickens, with pros and cons for each, so you need to pick the breed that exemplifies the qualities you desire. I wanted a large, dual purpose chicken (eggs and meat) that was a good egg producer and would be somewhat personable. The Australorp fit the bill, and seemed very chicken-ish in looks.

Step two – try to find a breeder. I discovered that small specialty breeders are actually quite hard to find; many don’t seem to know much about the internet. I started checking Craigslist – in my mind, a cost-effective way for the small breeder to advertise – but there were few listings, fewer for the breed I wanted, and I didn’t get a warm-fuzzy-feeling from any of them.

I moved to searching online, to see if I could get chicks sent by parcel post; believe it or not, mail-order chicks are very popular (at least south of the border), and apparently the chicks will do just fine in a box for a day or two.

I was slightly relieved to not find any companies that were close enough to mail the chicks; I was hesitant about sending infant chickens by mail, and had a vision of a box of dead, fluffy yellow chickens showing up on my door step. If the kids caught sight of that, the therapy would continue for years.

Then I came across The Fraser Valley Poultry Fancier Association (, and discovered that they had a winter show where breeders and chicken keepers would show their prize livestock. I convinced family and friends that were interested in chickens to make an outing of it. The show was very interesting, but the real find turned out to be the show’s program, which had a long and varied list of breeders in and around Greater Vancouver.

I ended up contacting several breeders. Most didn’t want to part with their young chickens, and some were a delightful combination of rude and strange. We finally found a breeder who was willing to part with three chickens “on the point of lay”, but there was a catch – it would be 6-8 months.

Here’s a quick lesson on chicken terminology (and biology) before proceeding: female adult chickens are hens, male adult chickens are roosters, juvenile female chickens are called pullets, and their male equivalents are called cockerels. A chicken typically is considered to be “on the point of lay” at about 6 months. A hen does not need a rooster to lay an egg, but a rooster has to be involved if you want the egg to hatch.

Step three – figure out where to keep your chickens. The most common choice seems to be the chicken ark – a portable coop that has an area enclosed by wire mesh, and a wooden hut for sleeping and laying. I found plans for one on the internet ( and spent a weekend (and a few evenings) gathering materials and building it.

Chicken Arc

The last thing you need to do before getting your chickens is to gather the supplies you’ll need. There isn’t much – food, grit, a feeder, and a water container. The food part is obvious, and Otter Co-Op (Aldergrove) sells an organic “laying feed” (designed to meet the nutritional requirements of a laying bird) – $15 for a 45lb bag, and that bag has feed our chickens for 3 months. You can also make your own – there is lots of information on the internet, but it can be complicated sourcing things. Grit is small, rough stones the birds keep in their gullets to help grind up their food (they are essentially a chicken’s teeth).  A feeder is just a food holder – it’s less wasteful (and less likely to attract rodents) than scattering it on the ground, and a water container should be self explanatory.

Chickens also make quick work of some kitchen scraps – peelings from carrots, apples, pineapple, bananas and other fruit, especially berries (we feed them the leftovers, the brown bits that the kids won’t eat, etc). It’s fun to roll the berries around, and have the chickens chase them.

They also like pasta, crackers, and other grain products (but can get gummed up if they eat too much). We also add flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and finely crushed egg shell to their feed from time to time. Because there are free-range in the back yard, they also eat grass, seeds, worms and other bugs, and all the leaves off my wife’s prized beet crop.

The day we got the chickens, we immediately liberated them into the back yard. Unfortunately, when it came for them to roost at nightfall, they had no idea that their ark was their accommodations. We spent some time in the dark, chasing chickens, and pulling them out of rhododendron trees. It took two nights of us placing them in their ark at night before they figured it out, and they learned to put themselves to bed. I would recommend keeping them penned up under their ark for a couple of days to save yourself the joy of the chicken round-up.

Chickens being chickens

If you are going to let your chickens free-range, you have to consider the risks from other animals. A full grown chicken can take on a cat, but don’t stand a chance against a dog. Raccoons are very real threat as well, and are the reason we secure the chickens every night. Our dog has a high prey-drive, so it took a few weeks to teach her that the chickens (like the cat) were off limits. She’s pretty good now.

Ruby thinking about a chicken buffet

And now to the reason (presumably) you want chickens – the eggs. The Australorp was a famed egg producer prior to the industrial-farming movement. The average Australorp will produce 250-300 eggs, and one Australorp set a world record, laying 364 eggs in 365 days. The production of eggs is linked to the amount of light the chicken gets over the day (modern egg producers cheat with artificial light), and the colour of the egg is determined by the colour of the chickens ear lobes

A chicken will lay heavily for about 2 years, and then the production of eggs will start to decline. A domestic chicken can live for 17 years, however. You need to decide what you will do with your chickens when they hit menopause (or as I like to think of it, egg-o-pause). If they are pets, then eggs are a side benefit. But if food is the idea, then you’ll have a hard decision to make a few years down the road.

A piece of advice – don’t run around promising your neighbours the excess from your anticipated glut of eggs – it takes a while to for them to get up to speed. So far, of our three chickens, one is laying, and in the last 3 months, we’ve gotten 2 dozen eggs. We should get 2-3 eggs a day in the spring and summer, but you never know.

When I get asked the inevitable, four-times-a-week, question of when they will lay, or why they aren’t laying more, I grumpily answer, “I’m not sure – perhaps you should go ask them.” The point of all this is, it’s unlikely that you will be awash in eggs when you first get your chickens, even if your chickens are at the so-called “point-of-lay.”

Should you decide to get chickens, you’ll be inevitably be asked these questions:

  • Will they get avian flu? It’s unlikely in a small, isolated flock, not nearly as likely as in industrial setting with thousands of birds crammed into cages.
  • Will they attract rats? If you leave the food out, you get pests, just like if you left the remains of a picnic outside.
  • Don’t they smell? Not really. You do need to clean out their ark once a week. We lay newspaper, and put it straight in the compost.
  • Are they noisy? Chickens are pretty quiet, certainly quieter than a barking dog, or fighting cat. Just don’t get a rooster (it’s against the by-laws).
  • What do you do with them in the winter? Chickens can handle subzero temperatures– they puff up their feathers, and huddle together. We are looking at getting a small light bulb in a can to provide some supplementary heat if it gets really cold.

There are a few down-sides that we’ve noticed,

  • They will eat unprotected fruit; we have 3 blueberry plants, and half-a-dozen strawberry plants. By the time we got the chickens, the fruit season was mostly over, but I would sometimes find a chicken standing on top of a strawberry plant, eating the berries (apples seem to be safe, but I wonder what happens when our grape vine produces). A solution would be to keep them enclosed in a pen on the grass
  • They make a lot of poop. Some of the morning “deposits” are as large as our dogs. Fortunately, it’s excellent for the compost – it doesn’t have the same dangerous pathogens as cat and dog poop. It’s still not fun to step in, however, and they seem to like to poop on the sidewalks.  Again, an enclosure on the grass would fix the issue. The poop is great for the lawn.
  • When going on vacation, you need someone to chicken-sit; this means someone to let them out in the morning, put out food, and then secure them at night and put away the food. Simpler than a dog, but still a complication.
  • You have to be careful with food; one of the kids was feeding large handfuls of wheat berries to the chickens, which constipated one of the chickens. It was an experience, giving the chicken an enema.

If you are thinking about chickens, here’s what I’ve experienced so far: you won’t be struggling under a glut of eggs, they are easier to easy to look after than expected (but difficult to acquire), and they’re fun to watch parade around the lawn, pecking at anything that catches their fancy.

11th Annual Doggy Fun Day

Weave Poles, Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Hey fellow #NewWest dog people! Did you know there is a whole day dedicated to dogs having fun and playing silly games in our fair city? That’s right! the 11th Annual Doggy Fun Day is coming up on Sunday August 29th at the playing field just above the dog off-leash area in Queens Park. The action happens from noon to 3PM.

Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Events include the Royal City Rockets Dog Agility Team putting on a show at 12:30pm and 2:30pm, displays and prize draws, and long time favourite doggy games: egg and spoon race, 3 legged race, the Howl-A-Long, Best Doggy Tricks, the Look-a-Like contest and the 4 paws up famous BOBBING FOR WIENERS.  No kidding. I don’t make this stuff up.

Photo Courtesy Nina Hobbis

Doggy Fun Day is sponsored by The Pacific Volunteer Education and Assistance Team for Animals and you can get a hold of the organizers at

7 Things To Look For When Hiring a Pet Sitter

Regular reader Brigette Mayer is the owner and operator of Calli Co. Pet Services, a pet sitting service based in New Westminster. Since it’s vacation season for so many people, we asked Brigette to give us some tips on how to hire a professional pet sitter.

Barkley and Koshi, Photo by Eric Jung, used with permission

Your pets are your fur babies, an important part of your family. Are you going to trust their care to any old hack that posts an ad for cheap pet care on Craigslist? Here are seven crucial things to look for when hiring a professional pet sitter.

  1. Is the pet sitter insured and bonded? A professional pet sitter carries a minimum of $1 million general liability insurance, including an additional rider for care, custody and control of your pets. The insurance may also cover lost key coverage – in the event your pet sitter misplaces your house key, this coverage pays for your locks to be re-keyed. For bonding, a minimum $10,000 dishonesty bond is standard.
  2. Can the pet sitter provide references? You should ask for both written testimonials, if they are not already posted on the pet sitter’s web site, and references from current or past clients that you can call and speak to directly.
  3. Does the pet sitter provide a free, no-obligation initial consultation? You are trusting this individual with a key to your home and your pets. You need to have a chance to meet with him or her to decide for yourself if this person is the right fit for you and your family. An initial consultation should last around 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Does the pet sitter provide you with a written contract, including details of services to be provided, rates and terms and conditions? If not, run far, far away! Your relationship with a pet sitter is legally binding and you should ensure that you and your pets are protected.
  5. Does the pet sitter know pet first aid? While not strictly necessary, it certainly provides an additional level of comfort to know that your pet sitter is knowledgeable enough to provide emergent care to your pet if something unexpected were to happen.
  6. Does the pet sitter check in to ensure that you’ve made it home at the end of your trip? A conscientious professional will want to know if your travel plans have been delayed for any reason, so that (s)he can continue to care for your pets until you return home safely.
  7. Does your pet sitter give you the warm fuzzies? Remember, as much as pet sitters have to enjoy working with animals, you are the one doing the hiring. If the pet sitter doesn’t make you feel safe, comfortable and happy with their services and level of experience, then find one that will!

Cycling with the dog

Riding with a dog can be fun and easy, providing you are confident with your riding skills, but there are unique challenges. For instance, how do you keep an excitable 60lb American Staffordshire Terrier from pulling you a) into traffic b) off your bike c) into a lamp post, or d) with him after the nearest squirrel? These are good questions, and what follows should provide some useful tips, or a forum for you to share your own bike-with-dog experiences.

Cycling with the dog
Cycling with the dog. Photo: Travis Fehr

First, any dog/human activity depends on the type of training or guidance you practice. The methods I use are based on working with my dog to build a relationship based on trust, not obedience or dominance. I recommend visiting the Custom Canine site for further information on this type dog guidance. The specific recommendations below are the result of my own experience riding with my dog.

  1. Start slow. Find a place to practice that is flat, with no or very little traffic. An empty parking lot or ball park works well.
  2. Choose the right bike. Without control of your bike, you cannot protect the safety of yourself, your dog, or anyone else. Mountain bikes are designed for control in technical terrain, and may be the best option.
  3. Choose the right harness or collar. A face collar, or Halti, provides the most dog control in any situation, which is a safety necessity if your dog’s self control is temporarily absent.
  4. Choose the right leash. The leash should be short enough so that you can reel your dog in beside you at a moment’s notice, but not so short that it interferes with your steering or pedaling.
  5. Fasten the leash around your waist. With a Halti, the dog cannot use his full strength to pull. Even a strong puller like my Amstaff causes no more interference with my steering than a mild gust of wind, when the leash is attached to my waist.
  6. Stop. When things seem out of control, too fast, or at all sketchy, brake.
  7. Be visible. The usual visibility rules apply: reflective strips, vests, headlights, and taillights. Adding reflective material is just as effective with your dog.
  8. Call out turns and stops. I let my dog know that I plan to turn by saying “left turn”, “right turn”. I use “whoa” for stops. He can tell when I’m slowing down or when the front wheel starts to veer around a bend, but the oral cues give him some advance warning. His understanding of the cues develops with repetition.
  9. Anticipate problems. If your dog has a tendency to lunge, keep a lookout for the usual targets, i.e.; other dogs, cats, etc. At these times I wrap the leash around my forearm to shorten it and bring the dog close alongside the bike, while firming my hold of the grips with two fingers on each brake, staying focused on steering.

These practices work for my rides with my dog, allowing us to exercise together regularly. They are not meant to be a complete guide to cycling with a dog, but if you want to give it a try, they should at least give you the chance to determine whether it is right for you and your canine companion.

Travis Fehr works at New West Cycle, New West’s newest bike shop. New West Cycle is a community-oriented co-op specializing in reviving neglected and vintage bicycles.