Thursday, April 24, 2008

urban farming chickens

So I have been doing some research about raising chickens in urban backyards. After reading in some blogs that they found its illegal in their town, and a friend trying to have some in Calgary, and being told they cant have them here, I decided to try to figure out what can be done.

First of all, I found out, that yes, in fact keeping chickens in your backyard in Calgary in not allowed. But it is tricky to find. It is not directly in the Land Use Bylaw, but in the bylaw concerning the keeping of pets. If you plug in "livestock"
in the search engine on the city of calgary website, you get this:

Farm animals kept in residential backyards or commercial spaces are generally inappropriate for a dense urban environment. Keeping such animals introduces problems into the neighbourhood such as noise, odors and pests attracted to the animal's food and hay. As well, an urban environment does not provide an ideal living space for farm animals. In some circumstances, however, under the Land Use Bylaw, livestock may be permitted if the area is zoned industrial, urban reserve, or agricultural. If you have specific concerns as to whether livestock is permitted on a particular property, find the land use designation for that property and then consult the Land Use Bylaw.

If you dig deeper you find out that what is meant by "farm animals" is actually what they call "livestock". And this is what they say about livestock:

27. No person shall keep Livestock in any area of the City except where the keeping
of Livestock is allowed under The City of Calgary Land Use Bylaw

(n) “Livestock” means:
(i) a horse, mule, ass, swine, emu, ostrich, camel, llama,
alpaca, sheep or goat,
(ii) domestically reared or kept deer, reindeer, moose, elk, or
(iii) farm bred fur bearing Animal including foxes or mink,
(iv) Animals of the bovine species,
(v) Animals of the avian species including chickens turkeys,
ducks, geese, or pheasants
, and
(vi) all other Animals that are kept for agricultural purposes,
but does not include cats, dogs, or other domesticated household

So there you have it, chickens are considered livestock and you cant keep livestock unless you live in an agricultural, urban reserve or industrial land use designation, which you cant really live in no chickens...

As far as I can see Victoria is the only city in canada that allows chickens, but there are many in the United States. This article in the NY times is pretty comprehensive talking about chickens in urban environments. New York City, Oakland, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Ore. all allow chickens in the urban environment.

There is a group called madcity chickens who lobbied to allow chickens in Madison Wis. in the US, and won. Their website has some info about misconceptions about urban chickens - such as fears of smell, attracting rodents, noise, hygene, avian flu etc. The other things that I found interesting is that when they did get the Bylaw to allow chickens it included some thoughtful requirements. You can only have hens (as the roosters are the noisy ones) there is a limit on how many you have have, you can't kill them in your own yard... and others that make sense.

So all this info has lead me to decide to write to my Alderman. The fact is, the calgary culture is very conservative, and I am sure this concept is totally foreign to many people, but I might as well try. I am also going to try to contact some local organizations that would be in favor of chickens. The fact is, there are probably a small minority of people in Calgary who would actually want to have a few hens to have fresh eggs, and there is absolutely no reason that they shouldn't be able to. But, I do have to say I recognize the contentiousness of this issue.

Recently in Halifax a woman who had chickens was fined and she was forced to give her chickens away because a neighbor complained they were attracting Rats. If you read the comments below the article you can see how different and almost violent the views are. I honestly think though, that there are more arguments for than against chickens... and that one day soon we will realize that having a few hens in one's yard is far less of an issue than it seems to some.

At work people were laughing at me as I was telling them the advantages of having chickens: ie fresh eggs daily (you only need three hens to have three fresh eggs a day) their manure can be used as fertilizer, a roaming hatch can act as a lawnmower, you can feed them some food scraps... it's really a wonderful little arrangement - now what other pet can provide you with food and services like that - I mean, I know our cat cant, and a big dog in a pen outside takes up more room, barks more, and doesn't lay any eggs! So I convinced people at work to get on board, its a $200.00 fine in Calgary if you are caught with chickens... lets see what we can do about that....


Kellie said...

Thanks for doing the research, I was just looking into getting laying hens and now I know they are not allowed. If you are starting a movement to get an amendment to the bylaw please let me know, because I would be interested in helping. Thanks

daddymak said...

I too live in Calgary and would be interested in raising a few hens in my rather large back yard. I'd definitely put my name on some sort of petition of one was brought forth.

Catholicmommy said...

Sign me up too! I'm interested in getting this bylaw changed. I'm sure the barking dogs in my neighborhood are WAY more annoying than a few hens.

Teresa McLaren said...

Thanks for the very interesting post. I also live in Calgary and, although I don't own my own backyard, I would support changes to the bylaw. We are really going to start to focus more on urban agriculture for food as our sprawling cities eat up more and more valuable farm land.

Alberta & Corey said...

Just wanted to let you know that there is at least one "farm" inside the city. It is up in Crowfoot, just west of the 7/11 gas station. Good luck raising chickens. Also read your blog on carrots - you can get very big carrots, you just have to thin them. We always had a massive garden growing up and I tried to join a community garden this year but it didn't happen. Am planning to do some container gardening on the roof of our building this summer.