City Folks Want To Try Raising Their Own Poultry

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“We want to make sure the chickens are healthy and to make sure we are healthy.”

ANTONIA ORMSTON

URBAN CHICKEN FARMER

Lethbridge is still chicken-free, but a growing clutch of residents hopes to change that situation. Dave Henley, Lethbridge’s senior bylaw officer, ponders what might be a mini rush into urban farming.

“I had more requests for bylaw information (about chickens in the city) last month than in the four previous months combined,” he said. “Before, it only came up once in a while.”

Antonia Ormston, Amie Strong and Joanne Koegler are getting ready to get into chicken raising in anticipation of a change in the city bylaws. Ormston learned a year ago chickens in the city are against the city’s wildlife bylaw, but with growing media attention and some court challenges, “we felt it was time to bring it to a head,” she said.

The bylaw allows chickens for display at places such as Exhibition Park where they are a standard display at Aggie Days. Pet stores can sell birds. It is not illegal to sell chickens, but it is illegal to house chickens in Lethbridge. Violators can be fined up to $500.

The three women suggest it might be enough to satisfy them if the city will at least follow the lead of some communities in Ontario and allow a trial period. That would give supporters an opportunity to invest and learn the art of raising chickens in an urban setting, allow the city to gauge community opinion and allow animal health officials to assess the welfare of the birds.

“We want to make sure the chickens are healthy and to make sure we are healthy,” said Ormston. “In Calgary, supporters are using the United Nations’ Right to Food policy in their arguments. Laws are there to help all. We want to do it in a respectful way.”

Henley said the best way to achieve progress is for chicken lovers to lobby individual city aldermen, the folks who pass bylaws to reflect community values at some point in time or what may become an issue in the future. Henley suggests supporters of urban chicken farming stay away from protest actions. “That is the wrong way to challenge the bylaw.”

Ormston said a petition aimed at city council might be useful, but perhaps Henley’s recommendation to take the case directly to aldermen will be the goal. Strong said she wants to participate, but wants a bylaw decision before she invests in equipment and birds. The ladies all agree urban chicken and egg production has been proved in other communities, and they simply want all the benefits of such action.

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