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Blackfalds urban hen pilot project takes another step

Council gave first reading to bylaw allowing for two-year pilot project
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Blackfalds is considering a two-year pilot project to allow urban hens. (Black Press file photo)

Urban hens could soon be clucking and egg-laying in Blackfalds backyards.

Town council gave a first reading to an urban hen bylaw this week, following the lead of a number of central Alberta communities that have taken the poultry

plunge.

An urban hen plot project was proposed after a recent survey found that a majority of residents were in favour of the idea.

If approved, the two-year pilot project would begin in mid-July. Those interested can then apply for a $70 one-year licence to raise up to four hens depending on the size of their backyard coops.

Roosters will not be allowed to avoid unwelcome early-morning crowing wake-up calls. Selling eggs, meat, slaughtering chickens on the property and keeping hens in anything other than a coop will also be prohibited.

When first proposed a few weeks ago, it was suggested those applying for licences be required to let all neighbours within a 150-metre radius know of their plans.

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Blackfalds moves ahead on urban hen project

Blackfalds planning and development manager Jolene Tejkl told council on Tuesday that this requirement was dropped after consulting with other communities with urban hens.

“They found that the only impacts are with adjoining properties and doing any circulation beyond that doesn’t really make any sense …”

The bylaw before council suggested that prospective urban hen owners only be required to consult with those with a shared property line and sign a statutory declaration that they had contacted them.

Mayor Jamie Hoover questioned whether even that condition was asking for trouble.

“My concern in this is creating a situation where there’s rivalry or feuds between neighbours because we’re now asking someone to go and negotiate essentially with their neighbours,” said Hoover.

“And we have no other process that asks our residents to do this, including with the residential kennel, which in my mind is probably a bigger issue and probably a bigger annoyance to more people.”

Hooper said in speaking with other municipalities he is not anticipating any significant issues with hens.

“I think we’re being really, really cautious going into this. But I suspect people with big, loud dogs get way more complaints than anybody who is going to have an urban hen coop in the yard. We’re not asking those people to go through that type of process.”

Coun. Marina Appel suggested that town staff be responsible for notifying neighbours instead.

“This way it’s coming from the town and not the neighbour. We’re sort of avoiding that middle person.”

Tejkl said that most communities with urban hens do not require neighbour notification. Complaints are dealt with like any other animal issue and enforced through their bylaws.

Coun. Rebecca Stendie asked whether communities where neighbour notification was not a requirement had faced hen-related problems.

“Every municipality that started this as a pilot program has brought it into a full-fledged program,” said Tejkl.

Stendie asked if town staff would be comfortable taking out a notification requirement in the Blackfalds bylaw.

“We feel the bylaw has enough teeth to it that should there be any contraventions to it we can act on it,” Tejkl answered.

Council unanimously passed first reading. When the bylaw returns for second reading, it is expected to include options that reflect council’s views on whether notification will be required. The bylaw is expected to come back before council for its July 11 meeting.



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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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