Community in midst of urban hen pilot, continues sustainable practices

There’s some fowl play underway in Okotoks these days.

The town, just 15 minutes south of Calgary, is in the midst of an urban hen pilot, which started May 1 and runs until September of next year.

“Two to three months ago, there was discussion in council, which was public, and they decided shortly thereafter to move to pilot project status,” said Jon Begg, communications manager for the Town of Okotoks.

Begg broke down some of the ground rules for the 18 licenses that will be available for the pilot.

• Residents who wish to obtain a licence for the pilot must attend a course on the safe and healthy handling of hens and eggs.
• Coops can be no larger than 10 square metres in floor area and no more than two metres in height. The coop must also be at least three metres from the home and 3.5 metres from the street adjacent to the property.
• The coop has to be constructed and maintained to prevent rodents from harbouring underneath or within the walls.
• The definition of an “urban hen” is one that is older than 16 weeks.
• Pilot participants must follow bio security procedures recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
• Hens can be kept for personal use only. Eggs and meat cannot be sold and slaughter, if that’s what participants choose to do, it can’t be done on their property.

As of press time, Begg said 10 of the 18 licences had already been spoken for. A date for council to make a decision on whether hens will become a mainstay in the community will depend on results of the pilot.

In Calgary, a similar urban hen pilot suggested by councillors Ray Jones and Gian-Carlo Carra was defeated 9-6 in late April, drawing some ire from local residents.

In addition to Okotoks, chickens are allowed in Edmonton, Red Deer, Vancouver and Victoria.

Okotoks has often been the early bird to get the worm when it comes to sustainable practices.

In 2007, master-planned community the Drake Landing Solar Community — complete with a heated district system for storing abundant solar energy — came on the scene. The system, unprecedented at the time, fulfills 90 per cent of space heating requirements in the community’s 52 homes.

In 2013, Drake Landing received the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling Award, which recognizes leaders with significant achievements in solar thermal market development.

“The Drake Landing Solar Community is yet another demonstration of why Canada is recognized for developing leading-edge energy technologies that have significant potential for energy production in the future,” said Joe Oliver, minister of Natural Resources, at the time.

Last year, Okotoks was also honoured with a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Award for its water conservation, efficiency and productivity programs.

Targets of the sustainable water program include maintaining community-wide gross water consumption of 285 litres per capita per day (lpcd) or less; achieving community wide consumption of 275 lpcd by 2017 and achieving a waterworks leak rate of five per cent or less.



  1. Urban Chicken Coop pilot project
    In Drake Landing,BOTH adjacent neighbours objections ignored by bylaw. Do the objecting neighbours tax money not pay for bylaw service also? Does $30 and an application cancel BOTH adjoining neighbour’s rights/objections (courtesy notice) regarding a decision?
    Bylaw says first come, first serve bases.
    “The applications will be reviewed and approved by Municipal Enforcement on a first- come first-served basis.”
    Mayor states neighbours approval was required.
    In response to your last suggestion in regard to approving an application with objections from neighbours, I can’t see an application being approved in that case. That is the reason neighbour approval was required.
    Thanks for your letter. I hope that I didn’t ramble on too much.
    Mayor Bill Robertson
    Sent from my iPhone
    “I recognize what we’re permitting and facilitating is a nice project to help our kids learn,” said Coun. Ed Sands, “But, council still has the opportunity to close the door in the future.”
    Municipal Enforcement Manager Tim Stobbs says many of the municipalities he spoke with had similar concerns with the project. He used Wetaskiwin, who chose not to allow urban chickens, as an example.
    -Tim Stobbs, Okotoks Municipal Enforcement (OME) Team leader, said chickens are a nuisance in urban areas.
    “Some people may not mind having hens next to them, but if you make it lawful what if the person next door objects to it because they make noise or because they raise stink,”
    Everyone has the following fundamental freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.
    Like the Charter, it recognizes various rights of the individual. Unlike the Charter, it protects a right to the “enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.”
    Do those who opposed the urban chicken pilot project in Okotoks and your town not have these rights?


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