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Proposed licensing may put an end to chicken flap in Calgary

Backyard chickens may be permitted in the city, pending the outcome of an upcoming Calgary committee meeting.

The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw Review is coming to the city’s Community and Protective Services meeting on Wednesday. Among the items are new urban agriculture rules, one of which will allow the licensing of backyard hens once again.

There are also rules around dog and cat ownership limits, fine increases, pigeon licensing and other measures in the proposed bylaw.

This bylaw hasn’t seen an update for 12 years.

Urban Agriculture Bylaw Changes

Urban hens were deemed illegal in the early 2000s, and the debate on allowing them has been going on for years.

Groups such as Calgary Backyard Chickens, and CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub) have been advocating for a change in the bylaw. 

Within the Summary of Key Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw Changes, Urban Agriculture Part Four lists the rationale behind the licensing program for urban hens and temporary livestock.

“A licensing program allows people to lawfully keep urban hens while setting expectations that ensure neighbours are not disturbed and that hens do not attract predators,” the summary said.

“Temporary livestock licences can allow short term stays of certain livestock when in the public interest.” 

The city admin report said there has been general support. As long as the communities are not disrupted and owners follow keeping practices, livestock would be allowed temporarily. 

Calgary Backyard Chickens

Lisa Patterson joined the hen flap as the President of the Permaculture Calgary Guild, which has been in Calgary for 10 years. 

“We work at empowering Calgarians to be more self-sufficient,… to produce more food and less waste. To be good, sustainable individuals within our community,” Patterson said. 

As for reasons why chickens are sustainable, she said they can eat food waste and help fertilize gardens. 

“Chicken manure is one of the best additives to your home composting systems for use in your gardens,” she said.

“They produce an excellent source of protein on a very sustainable level.” 

Calgary Backyard Chickens has only been around for about a year. Patterson said the group has grassroots people who have wanted chickens for a long time.

“Up until about 2006, it was perfectly legal to have chickens in your backyard in Calgary,” she said.

“We’ve been doing as much as we can to educate people about the process and to get their input. We’ve been running a Calgary Backyard Chicken campaign.” 

Education, awareness, and inspections

According to the proposed wording for a bylaw respecting the Regulation, Licensing and Control of Animals in The City of Calgary, the chief bylaw officer is authorized to inspect livestock and housing to ensure the meeting of requirements. 

Patterson and the Backyard Chicken group is on board with the licensing, fee, education components and inspections.

“It will address the safety issues for the chickens and the negative attention that chickens will draw predators to the city,” she said.

“The predators are already here preying on cats, small dogs, and rodents. With chickens in enclosures, the predators are not going to be able to get them.”

As for the care of the chickens, Patterson said chickens who live in the city would have better lives than chickens living in factory farms producing eggs.

“So, it is a positive animal welfare issue as well,” she said.

Individuals who wish to own chickens will need a licence and permit to keep livestock, which is estimated to cost $69 in 2022. To get the licence and permit, they must apply to the Chief Bylaw Officer. 

Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub

Paul Hughes is the organizer of CLUCK and said it has grown across North America since its start in January 2009. According to their Facebook page, CLUCK is Canada’s largest and fastest-growing food justice network, fighting for the right to have backyard chickens and grow their food.

He wants day-one members of the movement to have recognition for their hard work with the urban hen advocation – particularly in the City of Calgary.

“There’s been a lot of people that have done a lot of work over the last decade and taken a lot of hits,” he said. 

Hughes said he’s been part of multiple meetings over the years with the city and has helped provide research and insight to shape the most recent version of the city’s bylaw.

Other CLUCK chapters have had the success Hughes hopes to see in Calgary. He said that North Vancouver had one council meeting in 2010, and they were allowed backyard chickens right away. Hughes also noted that places like France have chickens everywhere. 

Will there really be urban chickens?

Hughes said he has little faith in the City of Calgary to go through with changing the bylaw.

“We’ve got a proud agricultural heritage. The city was built on agriculture. You know we celebrate every year with a Stampede and rodeo,” he said.

“To put it bluntly, I have minimal confidence in the city to do the right thing. Don’t get me wrong. If they embrace it, I would be ecstatic. I can’t wait for some hen-archy.”

The Backyard Chickens folks said they’ve taken collaborative approach with the city to help further the cause of allowing urban hens.

The work of both groups over the years has brought the city to a point where backyard hens may be a reality.

A deeper look into the bylaw changes

Other sections of the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw Changes suggest alterations regarding animals such as cats, dogs, and bees.

There are suggestions allowing programs that trap, neuter, and release cats are suggested to be allowed to operate lawfully. 

“Best practice information shows this is the best way to manage feral cat populations,” it states. “Increased public awareness should influence cat owners to not let cats outdoors off their property.” 

Changes concerning vicious dogs and dog aggression state a Chief Bylaw Officer can designate an animal as a “Nuisance” or “Vicious” and place conditions on how the owner must keep that animal. Appeals can be heard by the License and Community Standards Appeal Board, and fines will be increased for aggressive behaviours.

A licensing program for beekeeping may happen as long as hives are set correctly and beekeepers receive the necessary training to maintain public safety.