Urban chicken licences are now available for the pecking.
Council voted 4-2 in support of hatching a new chicken bylaw permitting up to four chickens per household on Monday.
In doing so, Red Deer became the largest city in Alberta that allows backyard hens.
The new bylaw permits 65 chicken licences each year based on population.
The $28 licences can be purchased through the city’s licensing department.
Thirty licences will be set aside for the homes that participated in the city’s urban chicken pilot.
Councillors Buck Buchanan and Lawrence Lee did not support the bylaw.
During debate, Lee raised concerns about diseases, health and safety. Lee quoted a report that said increased contact between people and chickens increases the risks of certain diseases. He also raised concerns about inexperienced urban chicken farmers and animal welfare.
“You can’t simply go out on the street corner and grab four chickens and throw them in your backyard,” said Lee, noting there is a large number of residents who do not support backyard chickens.
“I think there has to be some level of educated training . . . with any animal’s welfare. It’s no different with chickens. I think you have to take the responsibility of owning that and being a responsible pet owner.”
His comments ruffled Coun. Lynne Mulder as she accused Lee of fear mongering. Mulder said the city has done its research and worked hard to get the bylaw right.
Mulder said they heard the concerns and she believes they were addressed in the bylaw.
“To start talking like that to get people upset is not the way to go,” said Mulder. “He’s entitled to his opinion. Voting “no” is not the issue.”
The original pilot permitted six chickens. Existing chicken farmers are allowed to keep their hens for the life of their chickens. No roosters are permitted.
The bylaw contains regulations related to the number of chickens, prohibition of roosters or on site slaughtering, sale of eggs and the care and welfare of the chickens. There will also be site visits.
Coun. Frank Wong said he was on the fence about the chickens and he hopes the urban farmers will follow the bylaw. He also hopes there will be strict enforcement.
A report will come back to council about the impacts of the new bylaw on the community in June 2015.
Meanwhile Rocky Mountain House residents will join the urban chicken debate tonight at a public hearing. Peace River also permits up to six hens.
Edmonton is expected to delve into the debate this summer.
Councillors Paul Harris, Tanya Handley and Dianne Wyntjes were absent for the meeting.