Backyard Chicken Pilot Project Approved

Backyard chicken pilot project approved in St. Albert

‘I see nothing but positives coming from backyard chicken-raising’

CBC News Posted: Sep 29, 2016 8:09 AM MT Last Updated: Sep 29, 2016 10:07 AM MT

A year-long pilot project will help St. Albert scratch out some guidelines for would-be hen keepers.

A year-long pilot project will help St. Albert scratch out some guidelines for would-be hen keepers. (River City Chicken Collective)

Plump hens will soon be clucking their way around the backyards of St. Albert.

In one fowl swoop, city council approved an 18-month pilot project for backyard hens.

Council approved the pilot project at its Monday meeting, with only Mayor Nolan Crouse opposed.

It’s a plan hatched, in part, by councillor Cathy Heron. She proposed the bylaw amendment last October.


“It’s funny, they’re calling me ‘the chicken lady,’ ” Heron said in a Thursday morning interview on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“I probably never will have chickens in my own backyard but I saw it as a growing trend for any municipal population. It’s happening all over the globe.

“Vancouver has backyard chickens, New York, Red Deer, Seattle. There are a lot of big centres that do this, and do it quite successfully.”

Fowl plan

The pilot project includes strict conditions. A maximum of four hens will be allowed on each property. The birds must be at least four months old, and roosters are strictly prohibited.

Hens must be kept in coops from sunset to sunrise and should not be allowed to run free. The coops must be well maintained, and the hens can only be used for non-commercial purposes.

Up to 20 households will be able to apply for permits. Neighbours within a 60-metre radius of the proposed coop will have the final say on whether applications are approved.

“If one resident objects, then that participant can’t take part,” said Heron. “Which I’m really having a hard time with, because there is no appeal process for that resident. Hopefully that won’t happen. We’ll see how it goes.”

Heron said she has no particular affection for fowl but would-be hen owners across the city egged her on about the bylaw change.

“If people are knocking at my door, if 20 people want to do something and I can’t give them a valid reason why not, then why shouldn’t I try to help them?

“I just picked up this torch and have been an advocate for them.”

The pilot will be launched in phases. From October to December, city staff will set up training courses for would-be participants, and develop approval processes to accommodate the bylaw changes.

The city will begin accepting applications from January to May of next year. In May, approved applicants will be granted permission to build their coops, and regular site inspections will begin.

A final report to council, with recommendations on the future of the project, is expected from administration by September 2018.

Ruffled feathers

Though Heron admits the prospect of hens on residential streets has ruffled a few feathers, she remains optimistic.

“They are supposed to be fun and entertaining pets, and they really educate, not just children, but adults too, about where food comes from.

“In many ways, urban agriculture is going to have to be our future. If you can get your breakfast out of your backyard instead of going to Safeway, I think that’s an advantage.

“I see nothing but positives coming from backyard chicken raising.


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