A weekend show focused on livestock heritage breeds was aflutter with questions on how to raise backyard hens in the Red Deer area.
An organizer of the three-day Canadian Heritage Breeds show and sale, which ended Sunday at Westerner Park, said a number of people asked about owning hens for laying eggs.
They weren’t asking about the city’s plans to draft a bylaw amendment which would allow urban chickens in the first place, said Liz Munro, who is the director of the Red Deer chapter of Canadian Heritage Breeds.
“People are waiting for the warm weather (to buy an urban chicken),” Munro said. “They wonder which birds are best and how to care for them.”
One breed, the silver-laced wyandotte, comes in either standard or bantam (small) size. They’re very friendly and docile so they’re great around children, Munro said.
“Because of the urban chicken (issue), our attendance is up,” said Munro on Sunday. “This is the first show for the CHB since we became a registered, non-profit (charity) but we’ve had poultry sales and events for three years.”
Everett and Adrienne Tetz, who recently founded the Red Deer chapter of Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK), were also glad with the response they received regarding urban chickens.
“A lot of people have had a lot of practical questions about how to get started this spring,” said Adrienne.
“Lots of young families are pretty excited about it,” said Everett. “We found a bunch of families who are already doing it, but in places like Innisfail, Olds, the greater Red Deer area.”
They also said the event was great for those already raising urban chickens because it gave them an opportunity to connect with each other.
An Advocate story on Oct. 11 profiled the Red Deer couple raising six heritage hens, prompting the city to look into whether urban chickens should be allowed.
In October, the city’s Governance and Policy Committee gave staff three months to come up with a bylaw amendment to make urban chickens a permitted use, but with a number of restrictions to address animal welfare and other issues.
City councillor Paul Harris, who stopped into the show on Sunday, said he thinks allowing urban chickens is a great idea after visiting “urban chicken farmers” in the city.
“We (as a city) don’t want smell, noise and roosters,” said Harris.
Families in Red Deer say they have chickens because they make entertaining and delightful pets; they eat weeds, bugs and kitchen scraps and provide rich compost material for fertilizer; they provide fresh, organic, nutritionally dense, hormone and antibiotic-free eggs; and they help to teach children responsibility and to appreciate where food comes from.
Michelle Sulz, who lives on an acreage near Athabasca where she has chickens, said Red Deer should allow urban chickens.
“I think with proper care, people should have the right to have a few chickens in their backyard — maybe not roosters, but hens,” Sulz said. “I think families learn a lot by being able to raise chickens.”
In early 2009, Vancouver allowed hens in backyards.
Vancouver area resident Clayton Botkin, who was displaying 10 bantam chickens including silkies, said Red Deer could model Vancouver’s bylaw.
“It’s being conscious of neighbours — having no roosters is a sensible thing,” said Botkin. “And making sure to limit the number of birds in yards because it could get out of hand.”
— copyright Red Deer Advocate