February 22nd, 2019

Hens pose fewer problems than dogs or cats


By Mabell, Dave on February 8, 2019.

Backyard hen proponent Kelti Baird speaks during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

Many Albertans take pride in growing their own vegetables, whether in the backyard or in community gardens. Many also enjoy fresh eggs from their own chickens.

Lethbridge residents may soon have that option as well, following successful initiatives in Red Deer and Edmonton.

A pilot project here, limiting households to four hens, is being considered. After hearing last fall about successful introductions in other cities, Lethbridge City Council is expected to deliberate on the issue this spring.

Egg-laying hens pose fewer problems than dogs or cats, participants at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs were informed. Not only are they far quieter – no roosters allowed! – but they don’t leave droppings on the neighbour’s lawns.

With little more than daily maintenance, proponent Kelti Baird explained, hens may remain healthy year-round and continue to produce eggs for a decade.

“I can’t grow plants to save my life,” she reported, and her yard is too small for rows of vegetables.

“But I’m good with animals,” Baird said, and she’s learned about poultry from southern Alberta town residents and farmers.

It wasn’t until the 1950s – when supermarket competition arrived in Lethbridge – that the city banned “livestock” in residential areas. While that included cows, horses and chickens, she noted, for some reason it allowed “racing pigeons.”

In New York City, she reported, chickens have never been banned. And three of the five boroughs still allow roosters, despite their early-morning vocals.

Raising chickens, with or without roosters, remains common in many smaller communities.

“It’s surprisingly easy to keep the flock healthy,” Baird said.

For most of the year, she added, a flock of four would produce an average of 20 eggs per week.

As Canadians realize how dependent they’ve become on the global food network – with much of Alberta’s beef processed by a Brazilian conglomerate, for example – Baird said they’re seeing the importance of the “buy local” and “grow-it-yourself” movements.

Suitable winter-proof chicken enclosures are being sold in Lethbridge, she added, and some families are using them without disturbing any neighbours. The proposed pilot project would call for a city permit and inspection, owner education, a limit of four hens, and an initial cap on the number of permits issued.

City officials also planned to survey residents’ views on the pilot project, she said. But Baird was not aware of when or how that would be done.

As an added bonus, the hens could help reduce the amount of kitchen scraps going into recycling bins. Think of them as “tiny dinosaurs,” Baird suggested.

“They’ll eat anything.”

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