Backyard chickens to head back to city council

By Justine Kelsie
March 6, 2018 - 12:34pm

The chickens haven't flown the coop; the idea of urban hens is again bouncing around city hall.

An exemption to the Animal Control Bylaw will be presented at a City Council meeting Monday. If passed, a Livestock Exemption Permit could be issued allowing up to 10 properties to have backyard chickens for a 1-year pilot project. 

City Enforcement Services Manager Chris Manuel says, right now, the chickens are only permitted in rural areas and if the permits were to be issued, people would have to do some peckin' and scratchin' to get hens on their property. 

"A person seeking a livestock exemption permit would have to meet a variety of conditions found in the urban hen keeping guidelines including neighbor notification, site requirements, chicken coop requirements and those sorts of things," said Manuel. 

He said that administration had two concerns about implementation.

"Our regional pound facility, presently, is designed for cats and dogs, not for various livestock. That's one thing we are looking to consider. The second piece was, yes this presentation was about advocates for urban hens, but others have desires to keep various animals and our point was, at which point do we stop? That is a question for the community and council," said the Enforcement Manager.

During the presentation, Manuel said every time the topic was brought up in the media, his department would receive numerous calls about keeping pigs or goats in the city. He also quoted cities that had run pilot projects successfully including Red Deer. According to research he presented, that city has 1 in every 1500 people able to get a permit to own chickens.

Councillor Clyde Blackburn made the motion to have three readings at their March 12 meeting. In order for the motion to pass, all councillors have to be on board and pass the third reading unanimously. 

In August 2017, Council turned down a proposal that would have allowed up to four hens per permit holder. 

Rebecka Keyes from Grande Prairie Urban Hens was present at the meeting and provided a comment via email. 

" We are pleased with the progress of the committee. If it is Council's decision to permit 10 sites in Grande Prairie. We, GPUH, will assist hen keepers to educate and maintain hens according to the guidelines and best practices for backyard hen keeping."

The organization is holding an event to educate hen enthusiasts on Saturday, March 10. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. 

**Updated to add a comment from Grande Prairie Urban Hens. The organization provided a comment via email following the meeting on Tuesday.

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