Calgary not playing chicken with the flu, backyard hen permits already approved

Backyard chickens are once again being considered as a part of the City of Calgary's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. SUPPLIED

The pandemic, of the Avian Flu kind, isn’t affecting approvals for the city’s urban hen program.

A North American outbreak of H5N1 Avian Influenza has spread to 24 U.S. states and nine Canadian provinces, including Alberta.

The City of Calgary said that all successful applicants for the hen program have already been notified of their approval status. The city is requiring all hen owners to take training to prevent the spread of Avian Flu.

“To obtain a licence to keep hens in Calgary, urban hen keepers must complete an approved training course which includes how to ensure biosecurity and what to do if their hens gets sick,” said the city in a statement sent to LWC.

Currently, city licensing requires all hens to be kept inside a coop, or within a fully enclosed run. Training provided by the city also includes practices such as limiting the number of people accessing the coops and wearing coop-specific clothing to stop the spread of flu from other locations.

A total of 23 Avian Flu outbreaks have been identified in Alberta. Four of those have been in small flocks not kept for commercial purposes, and none within Calgary. An estimated 900,000 birds have been affected by the flu in the province.

CMOH says little danger to public

Speaking during Wednesday’s Covid-19 update, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that the Avian flu poses little danger to humans.

“What is most important to know is that there have been no cases in people in Alberta and it is very rare for people to be infected with avian influenza,” she said.

A single case of bird-to-human transmission has been identified in the United States. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, that individual only had minor fatigue symptoms.

Alberta Health Services were contacting impacted farmers in Alberta this week to address any safety and health concerns.

Dr. Hinshaw said that poultry products, including those from backyard flocks, remained safe to eat if properly cooked.

“Avian influenza virus is destroyed at the temperatures required to cook meat or eggs as would routinely be done,” she said.

More information for backyard hen owners is available on alberta.ca.

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