Monday, June 17, 2024

Backyard chickens and bees allow Victoria city-slickers to dip their toes into urban farming


Every municipality in Greater Victoria, with the exception of Sidney, allows for backyard chickens and bees as a way to get eggs and honey from a trusted source—yourself!

In addition to getting eggs on the regular and the occasional haul of honey, people who commit to backyard chickens and bees help pollinate their local urban ecosystem and aid their own food security. 

The hard part is where to get the chickens and bees and how to care for them once you have them. 

Luckily, a local Metchosin-based farmer will do all the hard parts for people who are interested in urban farming, backyard chickens and bees.

Bees Please Farms is run by owner, operator and bee keeper, Kate Fraser who used to work in insurance but wanted a change of scenery. She fell in love with urban farming, gardening bees and chickens and in 2015, wound up going down a rabbit hole she never wanted to get out of.

“We had bought a house a couple years earlier and I had started organic gardening and I thought, oh we should add chickens and we should add bees,” Fraser told Victoria Buzz. “I thought everybody should get a chance to have bees.”

“I came up with the bee renting idea first and then my mom heard about Rent The Chicken on CBC and I thought I’m going to do both.”

Bees Please

Fraser launched Bees Please Farms herself and began making and distributing honey bees to people in Greater Victoria who wanted to help save the bees and bring more pollinators to their region.

She will deliver the beehive and the bees and routinely take care of them for her clients so they can just kick their feet up and know they are helping the environment. 

As an added bonus, Fraser will bring 10 lbs of honey for those who rent the hives from her on a yearly basis that she harvests from her own hives throughout the region. 

“I do all the beekeeping for people,” said Fraser. “It’s like how people hire a landscaper to take care of their garden, except I’m looking after their hive.”

“With honey, it’s very dependent on how strong the bees are and what area they’re in, because urban areas don’t really have too many flowers.” 

“There’s enough to kind of keep the bees going but it’s not like we’re in the meadows of Peace River where they’re getting 200 lbs [of honey] per hive.”

(Bees Please Farms)

The way Fraser conducts her business is she prioritizes the bees, and her clients appreciate that of her because at the end of the day, all She or her clientele want is for healthy, happy bees to be able to do their thing around town. 

“I really want to put the bees first, so I’m not out there to do commercial honey production or anything,” explained Fraser.

“Sometimes I won’t pull any honey from the hives [my clients] have on their property and they know that going into it.” 

According to Fraser, bee populations are declining faster than most people would think and they are responsible for much of the flowers in and around Victoria being able to blossom and bloom for locals and tourists to enjoy. 

Bees Please Farms has over 150 hives distributed throughout Greater Victoria and even has some commercial clients such as Parkside Hotel, New Horizons Community Centre, Glenlyon Norfolk Private School and Coast Hotels.

Rent The Chicken

Rent The Chicken began in 2013 in Pennsylvania by a couple who wanted to bring people good, healthy food in a ‘yard to table’ way rather than ‘farm to table’.

Fraser’s mom had heard about the company and knew they had affiliates around the US and Canada. She told her daughter about it and Fraser called them instantly and insisted upon being their Vancouver Island affiliate. 

“I looked up Victoria and they had no affiliates here so I called them and I was like, ‘I’m going to be your Victoria one,’ and they were like, ‘woah, woah let us send you the info,’ and stuff but I insisted I was doing it,” Fraser laughed.

Fraser was one of their first and most enthusiastic affiliates and the two companies have worked together to bring the people of Victoria ‘yard fresh’ eggs every morning since. 

Fraser pays the Pensylvanian couple 10% of her sales and in return she gets access to resources and help with answering her clients questions.

(Bees Please Farms)

If a family of ‘city-slickers’ decide they are sick of paying upwards of $9 every week at the grocery store for eggs, they can get between two and four chickens for their backyard through Fraser and her business. 

The hens will come with a coop to house and protect them, healthy food to help produce the best eggs you can get, delivery and set up of the coop and their amenities and a guide on how to raise healthy chickens. The hens will produce between eight and 12 eggs weekly.

“The general rule of thumb is one chicken per person in the household,” said Fraser. 

Hens are allowed in all Greater Victoria’s municipalities except Sidney; however, roosters are prohibited due to how loud they can be. 

The chickens are rented out between April and October on a five-month basis. If a family or a person who rented the chickens from Fraser decides they want to keep their hens, they do have the option to adopt them from her.

In Greater Victoria, Fraser has over 60 coops distributed all with egg-laying hens providing people with healthy eggs from right in their own backyard. 

For those who live in Greater Victoria (except Sidney) who want to get into urban farming and spending less money on their eggs, it has never been easier to try it out.

“I always say it’s only five minutes a day,” Fraser insisted. “You’re literally just feeding them, checking the water, getting the eggs and every three or four days you just move the coop to a new section of lawn.”

Curtis Blandy

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