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Recent changes to the City of Calgary’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw mean Calgarians will soon be able to raise chickens in their yards.

An urban hen licensing program is in the planning stages and is expected to be launched by spring 2022, with initial permits capped at 100 households through 2023.

Lisa Patterson with the Calgary Backyard Chickens Facebook group says the change is long overdue, as Calgary lags behind many other major cities.

“Ninety-five per cent of the largest 150 cities in North American allow backyard chickens,” said Patterson. “We were really an outlier.”

She says the group organized a campaign advocating for changes to Calgary’s bylaw that generated 700 postcards in support of backyard chickens.

“Most, if not all, counties and municipal districts in Alberta that allow backyard hens require that the people must complete a training program or mentoring program related to the livestock they’re going to get.” – Melissa Moggy, Alberta Farm Animal Care

Some group members are disappointed the City will initially allow only 100 permits, but Patterson says they expect the program to go smoothly and hope the limitation will be removed.

“The thing is, every city that has had a pilot program or said we’ll do it on a limited basis – based on similar concerns to what Calgary city council had – has found that those concerns are baseless,” she said.

“(So) give us the freedom to have the chickens, and if a few people don’t live up to their requirement to keep a clean and quiet coop, then deal with those people individually. It’s like saying no one can have dogs because some people don’t pick up after them.”

Melissa Moggy, extension coordinator with Alberta Farm Animal Care, says the organization offers webinars, seminars and other resources on raising backyard hens.

Instructor Cassandra Kirkpatrick leads an Alberta Farm Animal Care seminar on backyard hens.
Courtesy of Alberta Farm Animal Care

In the past, Moggy says, most Albertans had a connection to someone who farmed, but now “the general urban population has become very separated from agriculture.” This means people must learn about normal chicken behavior and what the birds need to be raised successfully and humanely.

“Most, if not all, counties and municipal districts in Alberta that allow backyard hens require that the people must complete a training program or mentoring program related to the livestock they’re going to get,” said Moggy.

One of the first things people should understand about raising urban chickens is the fact that only females (i.e., hens) are allowed, to avoid noise and the potential for breeding.

Food safety laws also mean that people cannot raise and slaughter hens for food, or sell eggs to other people, without meeting strict guidelines.

Moggy adds that high startup costs mean eggs produced by urban hens are actually quite expensive at first, and caring for chickens is a full-time commitment, so people can’t just take off on vacation and leave them unattended.