Something to cluck about

The City is proposing an urban hen bylaw which would allow residents to keep hens in their backyard within City limits.

City of Lacombe councillors are giving citizens something to cluck about.

The City is proposing an urban hen bylaw, which through a proposed pilot program, would allow residents to keep hens in their backyard within City limits.

Councillors approved first reading of the bylaw on March 14th.

“This bylaw will look very similar because it’s based on the City of Red Deer’s successful bylaw that has now been in place for over a year,” said Director of Corporate Services Michael Minchin. “A number of other communities have also adopted this as kind of the guiding practice in Alberta in regards to urban hens.”

In this bylaw, 10 residents will be permitted, through an annual licensing process, to own a maximum of four hens that are at least 16 weeks of age. The hens must be registered with the province and meet other federal legislation requirements. Hens are to be contained in a chicken coop and an enclosed outdoor area, in a total size of 10 metres squared.

“There are regulations regarding size and location of the actual hens on the properties,” explained Minchin.

Other regulations are laid out regarding the upkeep and cleanliness of the coop area and the disposal of waste. After first reading, the City plans to gather public feedback over the following few weeks about the bylaw, before bringing it back to council.

Councillor Peter Bouwsema questioned if the total size of the hen area (10 metres squared) was too large and if the licence fee was too costly.

“I actually have to admit that when I saw $50 (license fee), I thought that it was outrageous,” he said.

Minchin responded and said the proposed annual licence fee was in line with other fees the City charges.

“If a dog licence is $23, it just seems a little excessive,” added Bouwsema.

Councillor Reuben Konnik stated he has heard a lot of interest toward an urban hen pilot project in the City.

“I think there is some work to do here but I am more interested in hearing what the public has to say,” he said.

The issue of permitting urban hens in the City of Lacombe is not a new topic. The issue first arose from a Coffee With Council session in the spring of 2015. At a meeting last September, council directed administration to prepare a plan for an urban hen pilot project, including the crafting of a bylaw.

Councillor Wayne Armishaw said he was reluctant to vote in favour of the urban hen bylaw.

“I really feel what is presented to us this evening falls short of the direction of the motion,” he said. “We have a very generic bylaw here.”

Armishaw noted that in his opinion, the bylaw did not include any supporting regulations and did not address issues such as the application process, the land use bylaw, best practices, bio security and advising neighbours. He suggested the bylaw be tabled until more information was provided.

Bouwsema questioned why chickens must be regulated to a further extent than dogs in the City.

“Back in the day, there was a reason why livestock cows, pigs, chickens, oxen etc. were not allowed in municipalities,” said Councillor Grant Harder. “That’s why I believe chickens need to be regulated to a larger degree than household pets.”

Councillor Bill McQuesten stated he understands why there would be concern with a pilot project like this.

“I think the first step is to do a first reading, get some input and then take action,” he said.

Minchin stated the bylaw is an attempt to find a balance between, “Recognizing the nuisances that hens can create but at the same time, providing opportunity for those who might be interested.”

And with that, and with two in opposition, council approved first reading of the urban hen bylaw.

After public consultation, the bylaw will return to council for a second and third reading.