Sparwood will be testing the waters on the community appetite for allowing backyard chickens in the coming weeks, with the District Council agreeing to move forward with exploring the proposal.
At a council meeting in April, a district resident had requested the district consider allowing chickens to improve food security and help teach children about food and work, and suggested the district adopt a limited system with regulations around the number of hens allowed, location in yards, storage of feed and more.
In a report to the committee of the whole on May 4, Director of Corporate Services Lyle Hannan said any changes to allow chickens would impact multiple bylaws and require a significant amount of staff time to bake in the commonly accepted best practices with regulation, such as numbers, hygiene, locations within yards, rules to prevent attracting wildlife and more.
Hannan reported that considerations for council were around hygiene and safety, storage of feed, noise, unsightliness and cost of enforcement.
The majority of councillors indicated general support for allowing chickens within the district, but there was opposition with Councillors Jarina, Saad and Baher indicating they did not believe the district was ready for chickens.
Councillor Cardozo said that she believed Sparwood was very ready, and if done properly there would be minimal issues.
“We’re a progressive community and we are ready for this,” she said.
Councillor Christensen agreed, saying that he had grown up around animals and saw no issues, and given there were examples of municipalities around Canada allowing chickens, the district would be able to regulate the process and make it work.
Christensen also said that he agreed with the original pitch to allow chickens, in that it was a great way to teach children about work. “It’s hard to beat that as a principle,” he said.
Councillor Bowen said he was in the middle, saying that he thought it could work only if there were strong controls in place, such as limiting which parts of town where chickens were allowed to lower-density areas, or areas backing on to green spaces. He also asked for more community engagement.
Mayor Wilks ended up in the pro-chicken camp, but added he believed more engagement was needed to ensure the district got it right before it committed staff time to drawing up changes to bylaws.
Limits supported by council were that there be no roosters allowed, that chickens be for eggs only (and not meat), that six be the maximum allowed number of chickens on a property, and that chickens not be counted among the pets allowed on a property.
The district will also be considering what zones chickens are allowed in within district limits, what requirements are written into bylaws with regards to securing feed and securing yards, and what mechanisms to use to determine whether a resident is issued a license or permit.
Staff will now move forward with gauging community support or opposition to allowing chickens before more resources are directed to the issue.
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