Starting Monday, March 21, Calgarians can apply for an urban hen livestock licence to keep backyard hens.
Council approved changes to the responsible pet ownership bylaw in 2021 that will now allow for urban hens.
Calgary joins communities like Edmonton and Okotoks, which already allow for urban hens.
Each morning, Jenni Bailey gets something most other people don’t from their pets: Fresh eggs.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s been a great learning experience for my children,” Bailey said on Monday.
Bailey has had backyard hens at her family’s Okotoks home since 2013 — before it was legal. The four hens live in an insulated coop that sits beneath a playground structure.
“My kids and I learned how to change a bylaw. It was really empowering for us as a family and for my children, knowing that you can make change,” Bailey said.
Her family helped persuade town council to make backyard hens legal in 2015.
In that time, the town has received one valid complaint about a noisy hen.
“I think a lot of those things are fear-based just because it’s unknown. I don’t have a mice issue in my backyard. I don’t have a noise issue in my backyard,” Bailey said.
“There are a lot of happy families in town because of chickens and I’m really excited for Calgary. It’s been a long time coming. A lot of people have fought really hard for chickens in Calgary.”
Neighbours come by the Bailey house to check on the chickens and share in the bird bounty.
“It’s cool to hear the hens. It’s nice and it’s way less noisy than the dogs you hear. It’s been lovely and not stinky,” said neighbour Megan Nilsson.
Sasha Szerepi started raising chickens in the backyard of her Calgary home last spring as part of a homeschooling project and has recently moved outside the city so the family can add to their chicken family.
“We asked our neighbours in Calgary to let us know if there are any problems and they said: ‘We had no idea that you even had chickens,'” Szerepi said.
“It’s been really good. I thought it was a lot more complicated. It actually turned out to be a really easy endeavour,” Szerepi said.
She figures there are plenty of covert chicken owners in Calgary who will be happy they won’t run afoul of the law anymore.
“I know there are still a lot of people that are not keen on having them in the city. They are worried about the pests and the smell and the noise, but honestly I think we’ve had a lot more nuisance dogs in our neighbourhood,” Szerepi said.
To get a licence in Calgary, applicants will have to complete a hen-keeping course.
This year, 100 applications will be accepted, and if demand exceeds that, a lottery system will be used.
Calgarians have until April 18 to apply.
Currently, each household is required to have two to four hens because they keep in groups. No roosters are permitted. The hens can’t be younger than 16 weeks old.
Once a licence is approved, the household can adopt their hens.