It’s not tax increases or even snow removal that has some residents ready to take over City Hall in a citizens’ coup.
In Red Deer, the No. 1 burning issue these days is an entirely different kind of coup — it’s the kind that birds live in, as in chicken coop.
The raising of egg-laying chickens within city limits has risen to the top of council’s often mundane agenda.
At its last meeting, city council took a full hour and a half to determine that the best way to decide whether urban chickens should be allowed in Red Deer is to make no decision — for now.
In a small step that may one day see them remembered for venturing into the brave world of self-sustaining, food security, council has given the nod to a chicken pilot project.
Over the next year, the city will work with the handful of people in Red Deer who already have backyard chicken coops, and also gather public input in a formal manner, to try to figure out to handle the issue.
As I understand the issue, people are not raising chickens to eat, but rather for the eggs. A good chicken can lay as many as 300 a year.
I have absolutely zero issue with it. Bring on the chickens.
I have a lot more issue with the “gifts” that cats leave in my flower beds.
I doubt I would ever have chickens. My tomato plants are more than enough to arrange care for when I am away.
A report on urban chickens, plus a possible bylaw specific to urban chickens, will return to council within 12 months. It remains to be determined whether the bylaw would cover other usually rural animals.
It’s a ridiculous argument for the most part, though, that come the chickens, come the geese, sheep, cows and pigs. The city can simply create a bylaw that allows egg-laying chickens.
The bylaw could limit the number of chicken coops in a neighbourhood, just like the number of secondary suites have been limited.
Dozens of people have sent the city letters and emails of the issue.
Here’s a sampling:
“Would urban chickens smell? No the odour that people think of when they think of chickens is the horrible stench of intensive livestock operations. . . .”
“Backyard chickens teach children lessons of responsibility and where food comes from.”
“To me this isn’t a question of whether hens are noisy, messy or stinky. It takes one visit to a residential home with a small flock to know that none of this is true. This is a question of Red Deerians’ rights to safe food. . . .”
“Do we want our beautiful city to look like Mexico?”
“I lived in a small village in England where they were allowed to do that and it was a nightmare, they fly into other yards, and they are noisy.”
“It will only end up a can of worms for other residents wanting to keep other such things as 15-foot snakes. . . .”
“Is this request coming from people that have moved here from different countries?”
It’s hardly new territory if and when chickens are governed in Red Deer. Numerous municipalities across the country already allow urban chickens.
Their bylaws include things like no roosters allowed, the number of chickens are limited, they can’t run at large, commercial sales aren’t allowed, no backyard slaughter, proper food and care must be provided, proper cleaning and sanitizing are required, and lots must be of a minimum size.
Council should ultimately approve backyard chickens.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@reddeeradvocate, by phone at 403-314-4332 and on Twitter @maryannbarr1