As a newcomer to Gabriola Island, Megan contacted me in mid-August trying to source some birds for her first flock. I only had nine chicks and wanted to keep all five pullets. By the end of the conversation I’d planted the seed of Megan taking one of my cockerels and gave her some leads to other folks that might have some hens.
A few weeks later I met up with Megan and her partner David to offer some chicken keeping advice. They had purchased a prefab coop and once it was assembled wondered if the size was adequate. I didn’t want to be a downer, but suggested they keep it for future use for a broody hen and chicks, as a quarantine pen or infirmary and build their own from scratch. There was a 4’ x 8’ raised platform where they wanted to locate the coop as well as a nearby framed building that was split into a workshop and a woodshed. I suggested that they either convert part of the shed or build on top of the platform.
I invited them to come over to my place to check out my coop and pen for some ideas. They followed me back home for a tour. I showed them the cockerel Megan had chosen via email. David was drawn to the frizzled one who was already spoken for, but was happy with their boy.
David, who turned out to be really handy, opted to leave the shed intact and build his own coop using the platform as a base, which he started on the next day. Over the next couple of weekends, he worked away with Megan sending me progress reports. I sent them a link to my post on coop designs for some pointers.
While she arrived here 17 months ago, David works remotely from Gabriola a few days a week, but still has to be in Vancouver for much of his work. They have a condo in Vancouver were he stays when in town.
Their introduction to backyard chickens began with a bit of drama. The first bird to arrive was a lone hen named Alice. They put her into the prefab coop for quarantine. Unfortunately the next day, Megan turned her foot coming down the stairs and thinking it was broken decided to head to the hospital. Just before they left, David went to check on the little hen and before they knew it Alice had literally flown the coop, bolting out at lightning speed and making a beeline for the bushes. Four hours later, after a lot of stress and sweat, with David running around with his newly purchased fishing net the hen was back, not in the little coop, but the big one. When they looked outside she’d made it in there all by herself.
The couple, then finally headed to the hospital via ferry. Once there, discouraged by the long line-up they turned around and returned the following day when Megan was fitted for an air cast. I was pretty stoked that they would prioritize their birds before themselves, so I could breathe easy that although they might be inexperienced, they’d be good chicken keepers.
I asked the folks who had dibs on the frizzle if they were open to taking his smooth feathered brother instead and luckily it was no problem. When Megan and David came to pick him up they had a bottle of rum in hand, having learned that I enjoyed Mojitos from reading my post on mint. They named the new addition Albert, which was promptly changed the next day by his 4 year old grandson to Magical for All (Magic for short). The two birds bonded quickly. Rounding out the flock are three more pullets given to them by my friends, Thomas and Elizabeth. The girls have been named Wanda, Goose and Borislava.
Once the birds were settled I roped the couple into sitting down for a chat as part of this series “Having Chickens Is A Great Way To Meet Your Neighbours”.
David and Megan first met in the parking lot in the float home community where they lived in North Vancouver six years ago. Last year they purchased a classic west coast style panabode originally built in the 1970’s with an addition in the 1980s. On the main floor are an open plan living and dining room, kitchen and guest suite, all with spectacular views. The upstairs addition houses the master suite and downstairs are two bedrooms: partial basement at the back but ground level at the front, also with ocean views.
When I arrived the house was bustling with activity: three energetic dogs and three young women and a baby filled the living room. I erroneously assumed the young folks were daughters but it turned out just one, Lily, was Megan’s daughter. The long-haired dachshund was also hers and the Italian greyhounds are theirs. One of the young women was a two-month roommate while she studied at the local timber frame building school and the other, along with her one year old baby, were staying until they sorted out the details of their move to Nicaragua. Megan heard of their need for accommodation in an increasingly tight rental market, and invited them to stay.
What would feel chaotic to me suits Megan who loves the company and will miss them when they’re gone. David seemed pretty chill and happy to go with the flow. She remarked that he “loves to look after and feed people”.
The couple generously moved into the guest room and gave Deena and the baby their master suite: a large bedroom on the top floor with tons of windows and a sweeping view south over the smaller Gulf Islands. They installed two baby gates on the staircase and that’s where Megan turned, and broke, her foot.
Megan’s no stranger to rural living. Her parents were part of a back-to-the-land movement of city folks heading to the country. Or as she puts it “back to nature, where they’d never been”. They had an alfalfa farm with three or four of every animal possible: pigs, horses, goats, sheep, milk cows, geese and, of course, chickens.
After high school she worked in a series of unchallenging jobs. Serendipity struck, when working as a receptionist, a co-worker’s husband, the CEO at a mining exploration company, suggested she come work with him. When he extended the offer a second time she accepted. Arriving at her new place of work she discovered he’d been fired. Naively, it didn’t occur to Megan that meant there was no job for her and his replacement didn’t come out and say so. Instead he said they’d give her trial period of a week.
Not long after, two ambitious young guys took over the business and she was the only employee they kept on. With no formal training she learned the industry’s regulatory and technical issues. Thirty five years later she’s still working with those two no-longer-young guys, as well as another team in both Peru and Argentina.
Along the way she married husband #1, David, a stand-up comic and actor. They have two kids: Lily a 27-year old copywriter and son Max, a chef who sports a substantial beard and lives with his Slovakian wife in Switzerland. Covid caused the closure of the restaurant where he worked, so Max, who had difficulties finding beard care products in Europe, turned his attention to solving that problem. Using his culinary skills he started to make his own beard products and his wife, Miska, who is a marketer by trade seized on the idea and together they have started their own online business.
Husband #2, Gary who came from Wales is a writer, actor, improvisor, sculptor and artist. They have one son, 21 year-old Oscar who is studying psychology at a university in the Maritimes.
David (not to be confused with the aforementioned David #1) coincidently also happens to be Welsh, but is neither an actor, artist or a stand up comedian.
His family came to Canada when he was a child when his dad took a position with the Canadian government to develop the Canadian Defense network in Canada to support the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Treaty established in the early 50’s. They started their new life in Cold Lake, Alberta where Canada was involved in establishing a joint military airbase with the United States. Over the next decade his father’s work took the family to many locations in northern Canada, establishing NORAD sites.
In the late 60’s the family moved to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the coast of northern British Columbia where he finished school, and stared on his own adventure. Instead of university he opted for an electrical apprenticeship, which took him over the next 20 years further into northern Canada, mostly working on industrial projects. Other jobs involved working in prisons: getting the electrical system running after a riot and fire at the Matsqui Institution and installing and modernizing the security systems in every federal facility across Canada.
In the mid 90’s David started his own industrial electrical company which led him to the mining industry. Taking a sabbatical from working in heavy industry, he bought a small cedar business that made garden trellises and boxes out of reclaimed wood. He sold the business to the manager eight years later in 2008 when he took the senior management position for a construction management firm that specializes in the development of mining projects around the world. This work has taken David to Siberia, northern Russia, through South America and the Amazon region of Brazil, Europe and the arctic regions of Canada.
David has two daughters, one of whom followed her mother into the film industry and works as a production accountant. The other is married with a 4-year old son (who named Magic) and a newborn baby boy. She and her very musical husband have their own online business producing shows for children’s programs.
Megan had a long-time dream of moving to a Gulf Island. She might have been close when, at 22, she owned a lot on Mayne Island, but sold it before ever living there. The impetus for the move here was a rescue dog with behavioural issues. Despite all their best efforts and attempts at rehabilitation the dog was reactive. She and daughter, Lily, thought getting out of the city might do the trick. Their house atop a cliff overlooking the ocean was purchased with the plan that Megan would move here with the dog in tow and David would follow full-time when he retires in a few months. Unfortunately the geographic cure was a failure: the dog bit someone and had to be euthanized.
Husband #1 lives on a boat near Vancouver and remains close to his children. He visits Megan and David regularly and helps out with any work that is required. I love hearing stories of civilized divorces where folks can get along without animosity.
Before I left David took me on a tour of the coop to show off his handiwork. It was apparent they studied my post about coop design and I was so pleased to see they’d incorporated pretty much all of my suggestions so that the coop was roomy, well ventilated, heated and secure from predators. He installed an automatic door, some boredom busters and a dust bath. There were still a few finishing touches left to do, but the coop is beautiful and has a stunning view, which I doubt their birds fully appreciate.
David is set to retire in a few months and already has a to-do list of projects: including removing the invasive blackberries on the slope below their house and building an outdoor Italian kitchen with a pizza oven. Megan has endless ideas which may change many times before she retires in the next two years.
Many thanks for Megan and David for sharing their story and additional photos, used with credit.