Recently, a new initiative started here in our city of Lacombe. Following after what has happened in other cities, some of our citizens would like the freedom to have a few chickens in their backyard. From British Columbia to Ontario cities and towns have accepted that it is good to grant the freedom to have some backyard chickens to the people. In other places the issue is still under review. In general it comes down to this: people are allowed (either through registering with their town/city, or by obtaining a license) to have a limited number of chickens in their backyard. The hens (no roosters allowed) need to be adequately housed, and the eggs they produce are for the use of the family only – nothing commercial going on here.
In response to these initiatives, the chairman of the Egg Farmers of Canada has gone on record (in Maclean’s Magazine) as saying that chickens are always better off in the large scale commercial operations, saying “Our operations, in my opinion, are absolutely better for the birds…” Others fear that there will be bad odour, noise, pollution, health issues, etc. All such statements and concerns are up for debate. The matter will perhaps come up for debate now also in Lacombe, as petition forms to collect signatures have appeared in some of the local stores. These forms state that those signing “…would like to see it become legal in the City of Lacombe for its citizens to have adequately housed chickens in their backyards. We are part of a growing group of Canadians who want to grow their own food, such as produce, fruit and eggs, for non-commercial purposes – a trend also known as “Urban Agriculture.” It is strictly meant for household consumption. Backyard chickens (numbers allowed range from four to 10 chickens per family/backyard), are permitted in quite a number of cities such as Red Deer, Vancouver, Victoria, Saanich, Guelph, Kingston, Niagara, and Oak Bay.”
The cities that have allowed backyard chickens to be kept by families withing their city limits report a virtual absence of complaints. The number of families that have applied to keep chickens are relatively low, less than 1% of the population.
Should the City of Lacombe join the growing list of places where “Urban Agriculture” is promoted, no one needs to feel that we will be suddenly swamped by clucking hens. However, for those of us who would like to pursue this, there are several good things that may very well come out of it. Great tasting eggs, the experience of caring for a couple of hens – great educational experience for the kids and/or grandkids – and the knowledge that we are able to reinstate a sense of self-sustenance, like growing your own things, eating your own food. That has been done for centuries, and in my opinion, we ought to still be able to do that as much as possible.