Camrose City council is taking another look at urban chickens and if the cluck is worth the considerable buck.

Several councillors noted they have received multiple inquiries regarding the city’s regulations on raising egg-layers in their back yard. Urban chickens are a trend that has grown in recent years with more and more communities bringing in pilot projects. Currently in Camrose, chickens still fall under the banner of livestock and are not allowed in city limits.

Before the city goes too far down the path, however, they want to check into health and safety concerns to determine if it is something they would even want in town.

“I don’t want to build up false hope,” said Mayor Norm Mayer, who asked for more investigation on the matter before the City takes further steps like community consultation and open houses.

There have been similar inquires in the past that have been rejected, like housing racing pigeons in the city. Pigeons also came with the added complication that they still have the ability to fly and are not 100 per cent of the time locked down.

There are concerns regarding backyard poultry such as noise, smell and animal welfare monitoring systems along with regulations regarding coops and other matters.

Urban chicken programs are often seen as a positive educational tool for families with children, or as a means of ensuring eggs are coming from a humanely treated animal on a grass-fed diet with lots of room to roam, as opposed to a factory bird.

Depending on the type of pilot project brought in, there are different costs associated. Director of planning and development services Aaron Leckie brought up a few different examples of pilot projects during the meeting of a whole on Sept. 18. He pointed to the project in St. Albert which runs at an administrative and policy cost of about $15,000 a year, and that’s before the cost of labour for monitoring and bylaws and other departments is taken into account. He says it could cost as much as $45,000 combined a year.

The total was an amount council balked at.

“The cost you outlined, I would think we’d have to have the goose that laid the golden egg, that’s quite a high figure,” said Coun. Max Lindstrand, before later adding that if pilot project could be formed that was close to cost neutral or would hit the purse strings less, it is something he would be willing to look at.

Leckie said there were currently backyard operations currently running in Camrose, but they are completely without regulation or approval, noting there are stores in town that sell laying hens and supplies but they are not all to county residents.

He said they often find out through word of mouth or from new residents who phone in looking for rules and regulations in the city regarding backyard hens.

“We tell them you can’t actually have them in the city and that’s usually when they say ‘Goodbye’ and we never hear from them again,” he said.

“They are not being monitored in anyway … unless there’s been a registered complaint.”


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