Town of Blackfalds to begin exploring urban chickens

Blackfalds town council may soon look at allowing backyard chickens within the community. Ashley Fraser / Postmedia

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Blackfalds may soon eggs-amine allowing chickens to roost within town limits.

At their last regular meeting, council heard a request from resident Linda Murrell asking for changes to be made to the Animal Control Bylaw which currently prohibits ownership of chickens within the community.

A member of the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK), and someone who recently finished a chicken course, she had originally inquired about obtaining a licence when she discovered backyard hens weren’t allowed. She took it upon herself to look into what communities in Alberta allowed chickens, and while there were some communities who did not – such as Sundre where attraction of bears is a concern, she said those who had implemented urban hen programs and pilot projects had zero complaints.

“Every single licensing personnel that deals with a hen licence, I talked to them in great lengths and not one who has a hen bylaw has ever had an issue,” Murrell said. “Not one person from anywhere, any place that has them has said there’s been an issue.”

The idea of urban hens originally caused some fowl feelings amongst council members in both Red Deer and Lacombe, however following pilot projects, concerns surrounding odour, cleanliness and noise caused by backyard coops were generally alleviated and both communities have since expanded their program.

The City of Lacombe, just ten minutes north of Blackfalds, not only made their urban hen initiative a permanent program in 2018 after a two-year pilot, but eliminated a cap on the number of urban hen licences allowed in November, the only municipality in Alberta to do so.

While Coun. Will Taylor said he had heard from councilors from Red Deer that they felt the urban chicken program was a headache, Murrell said she’d only heard positive comments from those in charge of licensing at various Albertan municipalities.

For her, owning hens in the backyard would primarily be about food production and teaching her kids responsibility through taking care of such animals.

“I have friends who have hens right in Red Deer and that’s where it started from….it’s a fun family thing that you’re producing your own food and that’s really important to me,” she said.

“I think it would be a great opportunity for me and my family, for us to have our food right in our backyard, the responsibility of cleaning up…and having them as a family pet as well.”

Other benefits, as noted by CLUCK, include waste reduction as chickens eat chicken scraps, bugs, weeds and turning it into compost material for gardens, not to mention improved nutritional value of eggs, which they say have just a third of the cholesterol, a quarter of the saturated fat, as well as two thirds more Vitamin A, three times more Vitamin E and two times more Omega-3 fatty acids.

There is no exact date for when discussion regarding urban hens and the Animal Control Bylaw would happen, however, Mayor Richard Poole said it would be discussed at a later date.

The next regular council meeting will be held on May 28, 2019 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.