Chickens remain on auto-pilot

Egg-laying hens will get to cluck within their existing Red Deer backyards — at least for the next year.

Egg-laying hens will get to cluck within their existing Red Deer backyards — at least for the next year.

After about 90 minutes of debate on Tuesday, Red Deer city council decided they wanted to further investigate whether urban chickens are a good idea, and they needed the owners of current operations to help them.

A pilot project will get underway involving the five to 10 operators in Red Deer. Plus, the city will formally gather public input — on top of the dozens of letters it’s already received from opponents and supporters of having live poultry in coops. A report, plus a proposed bylaw specific to urban chickens, will return to council within 12 months.

Adrienne Tetz, co-founder of the Red Deer chapter of Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK), left the meeting pleased.

Her group has been doing a pilot project of its own for the last 12 months to see what kind of support is out there. Neighbours of operations have been on side, Tetz said.

“Just last week, I had three different families from my neighbourhood in my yard because they saw me doing yard work and wanted to come in and see them,” said Tetz.

“They were telling me how beautiful they are and how friendly they are. They always look in the fence when they walk by to see the chickens and see if they’re out of their pen or not. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.”

City council has been wondering what to do about urban chickens since the issue first came to light last fall when the Tetz family was profiled in an Advocate article. In late October, the city’s Governance and Policy Committee, which is made up of all members of city council, gave administration three months to prepare a land use bylaw amendment that would permit urban chickens.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said that council wasn’t being uncertain in its decision making over whether a bylaw should be drafted or not. Following the policy committee’s decision in October, it was realized how complex the issue really was, Flewwelling said.

“I don’t think council is backing off,” he added. “I just think that council wants to get it right.”

Coun. Tara Veer had received colleagues’ support in January to ask administration to check into options for regulating urban chickens, including the possibility of licensing them.

Veer didn’t bring up licensing during Tuesday’s debate. She said later she was glad that the land use bylaw amendment was no longer on the table.

“My concern is that once you deal with any matter with land use and it’s permitted as a land use, it’s grandfathered,” said Veer, adding that means it’s tough to get rid of such an operation at that point. “I don’t think registration (of urban chickens) is off the table, but I think we’re moving in a better direction in terms of developing a general bylaw.”

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said she spoke with a number of concerned citizens. Questions included whether the city would control where coops are placed, and whether the chickens would be allowed if neighbours had health issues like asthma.

Wyntjes suggested an all inclusive animal control bylaw, which would include everything from snakes to ferrets, because that’s what people seemed to want.

“It’s urban chickens today…but what’s tomorrow?” she said. “In fairness to urban chickens, we should look at it as a big picture.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan sided with her, but her recommendation was shot down by Flewwelling and Councillors Veer, Cindy Jefferies, Paul Harris, Lynne Mulder, Chris Stephan, and Frank Wong.

Wyntjes later said an all-inclusive animal control bylaw wouldn’t be such a huge undertaking because other communities, such as Calgary, have similar animal ones.

“Sometimes we think we have to reinvent the wheel, but we don’t,” said Wyntjes.

But Coun. Cindy Jefferies wondered if council was making too much of the issue when currently there aren’t many urban chickens in town.

“I recognize there could be a huge intake of people who want to have chickens and that we could need a bylaw quite badly,” said Jefferies. “Let’s just keep it simple and come forward… with a pilot project and a potential bylaw, which may lead to an all-inclusive animal control bylaw in the future.”

Buchanan and Stephan voted against the final motion that came forward. Stephan said he figured that the vast majority of Red Deerians don’t want urban chickens because they should be kept on farms instead.

Buchanan said he would have preferred the city get going on an all-inclusive animal control bylaw.

“I just think we’re setting ourselves for goats and sheep and a bunch of other farm animals,” said Buchanan. “I appreciate all the urban agriculture, but we need to take a look at other things.”

He said Inspections and Licensing was queried recently in regards to someone wanting to keep a wallaby, which is like a small kangaroo, in town.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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