Council votes in favour of urban chickens

  • Jun. 25, 2014 3:01 p.m.

City council gave first reading to a bylaw that would allow for urban chickens in the Red Deer.

On Monday, council reviewed data collected as a part of the Urban Chicken Pilot Program.

A pilot project was approved by council in 2013, which allowed citizens to have up to six chickens per household. No roosters were permitted, site visits were conducted, and complaints responded to through existing bylaws. During that time, the City performed site visits, engaged in a public consultation process and are now bringing forward a report summarizing the observations, research and options for moving forward.

There were 35 participants in the project.

“Observations were generally positive with minimal smell noted,” said Erin Stuart, development and licensing supervisor.

During the pilot project, there were 1,850 letters sent out to residents who live within 100m of a site that had chickens. The City received 478 responses with 287 in support for the project, 170 not in support and 21 were undecided. Stuart added that 79 responses indicated they were unaware there were chickens living near them.

There were four complaints throughout the duration with three of those complaints related to noise and smell. One complaint was in relation to a rogue rooster who was captured by animal services.

Administration recommended that each household have up to four chickens, which is dropped down from the six allowed in the pilot. There will also be a prohibition of roosters, on site slaughtering or the sale of eggs.

Violation tickets could be issued for incompliant chicken owners.

Each household would be required to get a license each year for a fee of $23, which is similar to an annual dog license. There will also be a maximum number of licenses available each year – one license per 1,500 people which amounts to about 65 licenses per annum. That number will increase as the population increases.

Those involved in the pilot project will have first right to the licenses available.

Councillor Tanya Handley expressed concerns over the bylaw.

“I’ve had people quite randomly come up and without even being prompted share their concerns and it’s with that voice that I come forward with today. One of the concerns is chickens roaming in yards. It doesn’t fit the bylaw (as they are permitted to be in a coup) but it is what is happening,” she said. “I feel like they need to be where they can roam around and not cooped up 24/7 like the bylaw indicates.

“One of the biggest things that stands out to me are predators coming into the City. I have seen in the reports that we were given that weasels and foxes have been digging under fences and trying to get to the chickens.”

Mayor Tara Veer said she is happy to move forward with the issue.

“It’s become clear that we have a fairly divided public over the issue. I think the license proposal that is on the floor is fair and I think it’s fair for a number of reasons. By licensing what council has ultimately taken an indication towards is a precautious provision for the allowance of urban chickens.”

Council also voted in favour of a report to come forward in one year’s time with impacts to the community and any issues that have arisen in the course of monitoring backyard chickens for the first year.

Councillor Paul Harris said he wasn’t interested in a report coming back to council.

“I have no appetite to hear more about urban chickens unless it becomes a problem.”

First reading of the Chicken Bylaw was approved with a vote of six to two with Councillor Lawrence Lee and Handley voting against it. Councillor Buck Buchanan was absent.

The new bylaw will come back to council in two weeks’ time for second and third reading.