Monday, 20 January 2014

Updated 01-21-14: It's Back! The Great Chicken Debate!

You may have read two of my previous blogs on the subject of back yard chickens in urban settings.  As with pretty much everything else, there are two sides to every story.  Chickens are small and require little room; they provide food for the table, in terms of eggs and meat;  help children and adults alike identify with where food comes from; waste, when properly cured, is an excellent form of natural fertilizer; and it's really quite amazing how many scraps three or four chickens can eat through, keeping it out of landfills; not to mention, a chemical free form of pest control.  Unfortunately, there is also a dark side.    Municipalities are now finding themselves having to deal with those few irresponsible individuals who abandon their fowl, perhaps because they unexpectedly discovered that it's not only work to keep chickens but a whole lot messier than their rose colored glasses may have, at first blush, permitted them to see. 
But the debate continues, and while some municipalities have had success implementing sound policies to support the keeping of a few chickens, others have not.  For example, Paul Hughes, President of the Calgary Liberated Urban Chicken Club (aka CLUCK) has challenged the  City of Calgary's bylaws by refusing to pay a $200 fine for raising backyard poultry.  He considers his chickens as pets and believes we should have the right to raise animals for food, even in the City.  The  City of Calgary considers the chickens to be livestock, and livestock is generally not allowed in urban situations.  For the record, I'm with the City on this one; chickens are not pets; they are livestock and most livestock doesn't belong on the average City lot.  If Paul wants to keep them as a pet, perhaps they could live in the house with him. . . then no one would be any the wiser, would they. . . unless they visited Paul's house (but then that's an entirely different story, isn't it?)
For Red Deer citizens, the City's one-year pilot project, approved last February, is about to come to an end.  Over the past year, the City bylaw provided for a maximum of 6 hens (no roosters), provided they were registered with the City not later than June 21, 2013, after which no additional chickens were to be allowed.  Yesterday, Council supported extending the program to June 30, 2014.  I have a hunch that those Red Deerians who participated in the pilot project, didn't cause much of a flap and carried out their animal husbandry in a responsible and humane without ruffling the feathers of their neighbours.  Peavy Mart Urban Farm show, this past November was well received and there is even an upcoming permaculture workshop on 'productive pets', discussing the keeping of bees, worms and chickens in urban situations.
I think City Council is smart enough to realize that there are bigger fish to fry rather than to spend long hours debating over a few chickens.  That being said, if you have an opinion about this subject the City will be looking for input until the end of February, after which the chickens will come home to roost. . . either inside the City or out.