Debate over urban chickens heats up

City council saw more debate about the possibilities surrounding the idea of chickens within City limits during Monday’s City council meeting.

Councillor Chris Stephan said he believes chickens belong in a rural environment and that is where they should remain.

“Currently the land-use bylaw doesn’t address urban chickens at all. That means it’s not allowed but we’re taking a passive approach until we get this figured out.”

Right now there are people in Red Deer who have urban chickens so there is a push from them to make it part of the land-use bylaw. Councillor Tara Veer brought forward a Notice of Motion regarding an option for licensing for urban chickens.

“The notice of motion makes urban chickens allowed which I don’t support,” said Stephan.

Stephan said that he respects that people want to have local agriculture and take part in it by raising chickens but believes that it causes more issues than it’s worth in an urban setting.

“We need to be respectful of our taxpayers and what they want and not what just a small group of people want. A lot of citizens probably don’t want to live next to chickens based on noise and cleanliness alone,” said Stephan.

Veer said that all members of council have heard at length from the public and that there are legitimate reasons being presented on both sides of the argument.

A report will be coming forth to council at the Feb. 21st meeting.

“There are solutions whether it be licensing or whatever to deal with the desire for some of our citizens to have urban chickens,” said Veer.

City Manager Craig Curtis said that simply adding a licensing ability for urban chickens would not be the end of the debate because it would be contrary to the current land-use bylaw. Veer said she simply wants to see the idea explored.

“This would allow for an and/or situation to come forward and we can deal with it when we see the report,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said the report will be helpful in making a decision.

“The reality is that we have a challenge whether chickens should reside here in our City. With the report we can make a good decision for our City,” said Wyntjes.

Veer said a licensing option would provide a mechanism for those who want to raise urban chickens and that it wouldn’t host a lot of bureaucracy to allow them to do that while still allowing for strong protective provisions for neighbours.

“Licensing would mean we could reward those who are responsible urban chicken owners and also allow for the revocation of licenses for those who disrespect the privilege,” said Veer.

Veer said when council originally suggested to simply permit urban chickens through the land-use bylaw, a lot of feedback came through that was definitively for or against the idea.

“Since bringing forward the idea of licensing there seems to have been a little bit more common ground on the matter,” said Veer.

She added the goal is to create as many win-win situations for Red Deerians as possible.

Veer said she would like to see the right choice made not only for the community we see today but also for the kind of community that Red Deer would like to be in the future.

“I never thought I’d be thinking about urban chickens as much as I have but it’s one of those fun and interesting debates that come in front of us. All fun aside it is an issue that we want to get right the first time.”