July 15th, 2024

Movement supporting urban chickens taking flight

By Lethbridge Herald on June 15, 2022.


There is a movement afoot. It’s one we probably can’t stop even if we wanted. You’ve probably noticed that in the last couple years the number of jurisdictions in Alberta allowing chickens has grown. Lethbridge is now surrounded by villages and towns who’ve adopted bylaws allowing residents to keep chickens.

The benefits are increasingly clear- skyrocketing fuel prices will push food costs up thereby putting more people at risk, goods in general are threatened by supply chain deficiencies which will raise costs to farm operations and on the plus side, chickens produce a cheap and sustainable source of protein in the form of eggs. There are numerous other benefits to having chickens and a simple web search will help you with this, but for now I’m going to consider that having ‘legal chickens’ in Lethbridge is only a matter of time.

Virtually all the villages, towns and cities that are now allowing chickens are doing so by passing bylaws that state where and how licensing, inspection, regulating, educating, training and generally monitoring are to take place. Invariably it is in the hands of local city or municipal authorities. 

Each jurisdiction has or creates its own chicken bylaws. 

When the time comes we in Lethbridge will probably take existing off-the-shelf bylaws from Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Rocky Mountain House, Linden, etc.. and modify them as we wish for our city. I thought this to be the most practical way requiring the least amount of work from residents and that would be optimally fair and just. I thought this until a few weeks ago when I learned the following. 

In 1965 Lethbridge had a pigeon bylaw. Back then the keeping and managing of pigeons was a thing. What did the city council of the day do?

They wrote into the bylaw that local non-profit organizations, specifically those societies that promoted racing pigeons, to be the administrators of the bylaw. While the City still played somewhat of a role by providing health inspectors to do the requisite and timely checks on the health of the animals – the costs were kept lower than had the operations been centrally managed by the City. (Google lethbridge city government bylaws pigeon.)

 So if we adopt a chicken bylaw what is stopping us from having local neighbourhood associations be the ones to take care of this asset at a neighbourhood level? A model like this only has to be given the nod of approval by council. Let’s look at why this is a good idea.

The standard model of having one bylaw for the entire city and for every single neighbourhood and for every single residential lot has severe shortcomings. 

With a city run system the licensing fees may be the same all over the city without regard to the average income in any one neighbourhood. 

With a centrally run system the bylaw regulations are laid down and any hope of modifying those rules in the future is very difficult. With a central bureaucratic regulation there will be little room for nuances such as varying sizes of backyards, number of residents living on site or even a homeowners’ physical disability. 

The one-size-fits-all model has serious limitations. 

Meanwhile a local neighbourhood association is much more flexible to changing trends. And one of the best ways to engage citizens is empowering them to make decisions about things in their immediate vicinity. 

If this bylaw has provisions to empower neighbourhoods to manage, assist, train and support people who are raising chickens it is likely that the boards of these associations will experience an increase in membership because more people will want to participate in this process. 

By that I don’t mean necessarily people who will want to raise chickens, but also people who want to participate in some way shape or form in the management of chickens.

 There are plenty of apartment dwellers who would love to care for animals but cannot because they don’t have a backyard. Lots of gardeners are looking for sources of good soil for their gardens. Children can learn so much from someone who is keeping chickens. The benefits are many. These connections are best done at a neighbourhood level.

Some groups may be ready to put chickens close to their community garden. Some neighbourhoods may identify open spaces that could be prime locations for chickens. 

Let’s look at other advantages to this approach. 

1) It would be a near zero cost program since City involvement would be limited to only ensuring the neighbourhood associations are following the basic guidelines. 

2) People who live in a neighbourhood are better able to determine how their regulations should be written up. Residents of Senator Buchanan neighbourhood may deem eight chickens to be manageable; people in Paradise Canyon may put that limit to three.

3) As mentioned, the membership in most neighbourhood associations will grow. This will bolster civic engagement which is lacking in today’s world at a time when neighbourhood engagement could be of greatest benefit to individuals and society.

4) This greater engagement -with chickens as a neighbourhood concern- paves the way for further community programs such as shared composting, more student participation, sharing of chickens to help clear backyards of weeds and pests and other community activities that would naturally evolve.

 You, as a neighbourhood association, have a very important advantage before you in the form of a non-profit, financially recognized organization with complete legal corporate status.

Using this tool. Lethbridge has a unique opportunity to build vitality in its neighbourhoods, to help create citizen participation at a grassroots level and to develop a plan for sustainable development outside the confines of government hierarchy and the top-down pattern of management. Bureaucracy does have benefits but it may not serve us well when it comes to regulating chickens. 

We all want responsible and humane animal care so a responsible path is to ensure people are able to deliver that care and to do so with neighbourhood support.

The best time to sow seeds of neighbourhood participation is now. 

Final note, of the 10 most populated centres in Alberta, eight of them have an ‘urban hens pilot project’ in place. Lethbridge and Medicine Hat are late to the game.

Gilles Leclair


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What a bunch of illogical nonsense dressed up as logical. Here are nine reasons one would not want chickens anywhere near a back yard in the city. Chickens natural predators include:
Cats (of which there are a plethora of feral cats wandering all over the city)
And 6 others not so common in this area. (Come on down!!!!)

How are they going to eat weeds if you don’t let them out of the coop??

Just another idea that takes no view of the consequences of putting farm animals in your backyard.

As for being late to the party is the “everyone else is doing it” mantra. Maybe Lethbridge and the Hat are the smart ones.


When Covid came and masking bylaws were added this city stated several times it does not have the resources to enforce current bylaws, let alone the new masking bylaws. But there you are saying chickens are a simple process, just put new bylaws in place and all will be good. Also we get news of Avian flu so please add bylaws for controlling that inside city limits. and we have noise bylaws which so many residents say are not enforced so what happens at 5am when the chickens start clucking? Yes your letter is full of great anticipation but I still wonder if chickens are a good idea inside the city of Lethbridge.

Citi Zen

Agreed. The city should certainly seriously consider the fact that these birds, for the most part, will be outdoors. At very high risk of Avian flu. And it will spread like wildfire.


Neighbourhood associations, what can I say about them? The idea is great, the practice can be disastrous. I have belonged to 3 during my life, 2 I left in disgust. Favourtism, advancing their own agenda are just 2 of the things I’ve experienced. If an urban chicken bylaw does come to Lethbridge I want the city to run it, and have some accountability. On urban chickens as long as people are responsible(No roosters) I’m not opposed but many years ago I came home to around a dozen chickens wandering on the street and in front yards. A neighbour had a bunch in their backyard and their kids left the gate open. They were very lucky none got run over but got a visit from the city.


Avian flu…..

Southern Albertan

Urban chickens are when, not if.
“24 Features on a Predator-Proof Chicken Coop”