Chickens on the way…maybe
by Zoey Duncan
Clucking, pooping, flapping, and laying, the humble chicken is popping up in a few Calgary backyards despite a bylaw that orders otherwise.
The Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK) has been meeting with the city in order to change a bylaw that prohibits their presence within city limits. The city considers the urban environment an inappropriate space for poultry and other typical farm animals. Niagara Falls, Ont. and Victoria, B.C. currently allow chickens.
While there is potential for a pilot project to study the impact of raising backyard chickens in Calgary, CLUCK president Paul Hughes said things are moving slowly at the city.
“[City Council is] trying to get their heads around it right now,” Hughes said. “They want to explore exploring.”
A chicken owner himself, Hughes turned himself in to bylaw officers in February. Other Calgarians, too, have acquired chicks and hens from breeders outside of the city.
“She’s definitely a pet first,” said CLUCK member Andrea Rhymer about her black frizzle Cochin hen. “I believe in humane treatment of animals so, I’ll have my chickens, I’ll treat them humanely and if they give me eggs, I will eat them. If they don’t give me eggs then I’ll still love them.”
Many hens lay an egg nearly every day. Ursula de Vries, also a CLUCK member and an avid gardener, said that she was frustrated by the short growing season in Calgary, and thought chickens would be a good year-long food source. Though the bylaw initially deterred her, de Vries rescued some chickens in early December.
“Doing things like having backyard chickens is a very economical way of getting food into your household,” said de Vries. “Once it’s seen as popular and not ‘poor farmer’ then I think many people will start doing it.”
Wanda Lindquist, a Calgary resident who grew up on a farm near Lloydminster, Sask., feels differently about urban chickens.
“I mean they’re not the cleanest birds, for sure,” Lindquist said. “I just don’t think that they really should be raised in town, where there’s neighbours and whatnot. The smell was really bad.”
As a child, Lindquist was given the task of collecting and washing the eggs. She said that she has “all kinds of issues with chickens” after rooster attacks, chickens flapping in her face and the perpetual bird smell of the large flock.
“It’s like people that have lived in the city all their lives, all they want to do is move on an acreage,” she said.
A discussion on the CLUCK Facebook group page, reveals backyard flocks in the communities of Springbank, Abbeydale, Montgomery, Crescent Heights and Whitehorn.
Though the future of Gallus domesticus looks bright, Hughes is dissatisfied with the overall disconnect between Calgarians and their food.
“It’s so much more than just chickens,” said Hughes. “The thing isn’t right to chickens, it’s right to food.”
Hughes offered to finance the first chicken of any aspiring student farmers at Mount Royal University.