Hens could soon be coming to an Edmonton backyard near you

WATCH ABOVE: At the risk of ruffling feathers, city council takes a crack at a pilot project that will allow chicken coops inside the city. Vinesh Pratap has the story.

EDMONTON – A pilot project will soon get underway, allowing urban hens in Edmonton.

“It has been a long time coming. Personally, I applied to have chickens in my backyard in 2009 and again in 2010,” said Laura Klassen Russell, one of the urban hen supporters who flocked to City Hall Monday to urge the move.

The city will approve coops of various sizes in up to 12 locations around Edmonton, on an application basis. The plan is to see how the coops perform over the winter and through the summer.

“Chickens themselves are the ultimate omnivores,” said Jocelyn Manning Fox from the River City Chickens Collective. “They eat a wide range of common garden pests; these include ants, slugs, crickets, mice. They also consume kitchen scraps, and convert these into compost.”

Story continues below advertisement

“So this is one of the reasons why chickens are often the natural progression for those who are interested in other aspect of urban agriculture.”

Edmonton is considered a leader in waste management, so some argue that permitting hens would allow the city to go one step further and reduce the amount of organic waste. By raising urban hens, supporters of the idea claim it enables Edmontonians to take control of exactly what the hens are being fed and ensure they are treated well.

“I think we’re just slow, frankly, in catching up to this local food movement,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “There this desire for people to be reconnected with where their food comes from, to educate their kids about food production and animal care.”

Experts say backyard chickens typically have more space, more access to light, and they are able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, roosting, scratching and dust bathing.

“When the subject of chickens comes up, there are typically the common concerns and questions that are raised… noise and odour,” said Fox.

Here are some other urban hen facts that Fox cited:

  • Bawking noise is 60 decibels, which is about the same as normal conversation.
  • On average, one dog produces more feces than 10 chickens.
  • Chicken themselves have no odor whatsoever.
  • During the winter months, the chickens need insulated coops. They are able to survive year round.
Story continues below advertisement

“Some people…will object to that, just as I’m not wild about barking dogs on my block,” said Iveson. “But, we’re not going outlaw dogs because of it.”