Edmonton Food Council has been working on researching and providing a recommendation for a new urban hens policy for Edmonton. We now provide a summary of this urban hens work.
Edmonton’s urban hens program history
The City of Edmonton commenced implementation of an Urban Hen Keeping Pilot Project involving 19 sites, in late 2014, according to the City’s website. The goal of the pilot was to further comprehend the impacts of urban hens and to determine good husbandry principles within an urban context. The results of the pilot project were also intended to gauge the viability and establish a framework for a potential Urban Hen Keeping Program. The City of Edmonton’s Community Services Committee agreed with City staff on March 7, 2016, to extend the pilot another year and to increase licences from 19 to 50. The pilot’s extension allowed the City to further study the potential issues and concerns that are associated with keeping urban hens.
Edmonton’s current urban hens program
According to the Status of the Urban Hen Project report (March 20, 2019, Citizen Services report CR_6776), there are currently 45 licensed sites, five sites awaiting development review and inspection approval and a waiting list of 14 individuals for the Urban Hen Keeping Program. The report said that since 2016, 101 inspections have been completed and that overall, the majority of coops are well maintained. In an Edmonton Journal newspaper article published on January 5, 2019, it was stated that there are other people who want coops but who have opted not to put their names on the list and that there is limited animal control staff resources to put toward oversight of the program.
Advantages of keeping urban hens and program guidelines
River City Chickens Collective describes reasons to keep hens – These include, help to create a secure, safe, and local food system, and to teach children and adults where their food comes from.
Keeping urban hens contributes to the strategic directions of fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. Examples of this strategy’s strategic directions are:
- Enliven the public realm through a diversity of food activities
- Expand urban agriculture
In the Urban Hen Keeping Procedure and Guidelines document on the City of Edmonton’s website:
- A minimum three hens and a maximum six hens per site are allowed
- Hen owners must meet standards of care and setbacks from buildings and property lines
- Site requirements need to comply with Zoning Bylaw 12800 and poultry keeping is enforced under Section 27 of the Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw 13145
- Taking an urban hens course is a requirement of the urban hens license application process
These guidelines are designed to ensure quality care of hens example the urban hens course provides education for hen keepers on how to keep hens healthy. Following the guidelines leads to positive neighbour interactions example by minimizing noise and odours from hens.
Why a new urban hens policy for Edmonton?
Edmonton Food Council’s viewpoint is that a new urban hens policy for Edmonton will enable those on the waiting list and those who are possibly interested in raising urban hens, to be able to obtain licenses and access advantages of keeping urban hens as well as contribute to the strategic directions of fresh.
Poc Poc website shows that over 55 locations in Canada allow urban hens. Many individual city websites also show that they allow urban hens. However, restrictions for keeping urban hens vary by location. Several cities such as St. Albert, Lacombe, Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Revelstoke and Surrey, have urban hen policies in place with no caps placed on the number of households that are allowed to keep and raise these hens.
Edmonton Food Council’s proposed urban hens policy changes is to expand urban hens program
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news had interviewed a representative for Edmonton Food Council, concerning the urban hens topic. CBC news later posted an article on March 26, 2019, which includes this interview. One of the council’s viewpoints in this interview is to expand Edmonton’s urban hens program.
Edmonton Food Council believes that Administration should move to a purely complaints-driven process as it relates to program deficiencies. This is one of the options in the Status of the Urban Hen Project report. Edmonton Food Council supports removal of the cap and moving to a complaints-driven system because:
- There will be sufficient licenses for those on the waiting list and those who are possibly interested in raising urban hens
- Overall, it is cheaper – examples are less site inspections and avoidance of having to revisit increasing the urban hens cap again
This suggestion was presented at the Community and Public Services Committee meeting on April 10, 2019, by an Edmonton Food Council representative. In meeting minutes, Citizen Services report is stated to be received for information.
Note that urban hens licenses are granted only if the applications meet the requirements for the license.
For a more detailed look at this discussion, please review the full urban hens report to be released on the Edmonton Food Council’s website in June 2019.
On behalf of the Edmonton Food Council:
Kimlin Metivier and Mychal-Ann Hayhoe
May 7, 2019
Animal Control Services Pound & Adoption Centre. Backyard Chickens.
City of Edmonton, a. (2019). Urban Hens Program.
City of Edmonton, b. (2019). Status of the Urban Hen Project.
City of Edmonton, c. (2019). fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy.
City of Kamloops. (2019). Urban Hens.
City of Lacombe. (2019). Urban Hen Program. Retrieved from Lacomb.ca
City of Revelstoke Bylaw Enforcement. Backyard Chicken Guidelines. Retrieved from City of Revelstoke.com
City of Surrey Bylaw & Licensing Service. (2016). Backyard Chicken FAQ.
City of St. Albert. (2019). Backyard Hens Licenses.
City of Vancouver. (2019). Learn the rules for backyard chickens, and register your chickens with the City.
Neufeld, Scott. (2019, March 26). Counting chickens: Edmonton may consider expanding urban hen project. CBC news.
Parsons, Paige. (2019, January 5). Families wait for city to consider cracking cap on chicken coops. Edmonton Journal.
Poc Poc. Are chickens legal in your city?
River City Chickens. Why hens?