Urban hens under consideration

Diamond Valley: Club requests council approval for backyard chickens in town

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 08:33 am

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Two Diamond Valley women don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but they are lobbying town councils with a proposal they say is a healthy benefit to their communities.

Naphtha resident Heather Gillis and Margaret Krichbaum of Turner Valley approached Diamond Valley residents before looking for approval from the Towns of Turner Valley and Black Diamond to run a one-year pilot project allowing backyard hens in the communities.

Gillis initiated Diamond Valley CLUCK last July, which now has 38 members, as a branch of the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK) in Calgary. Her goal is to pursue a healthier lifestyle as a result of an environmental illness she suffers causing respiratory, sinus, skin and neurgological problems when exposed to specific foods, perfumes and chemicals.

“I really do think that we need to take a real change in the way we approach things,” she said. “(Backyard hens) makes so much sense to me because GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), pesticides and herbicides are in my foods and I know they bother me.”

Krichbaum and Gillis visited 52 Diamond Valley homes last December asking residents for their opinion on the pilot project.

Gillis said about 80 per cent either supported the idea or were not concerned, about a quarter were interested and 10 per cent were against it for various reasons.

“That gave us pretty good insight,” she said. “I felt there was enough of an interest to warrant pursuing it.”

The ladies presented information to Turner Valley and Black Diamond town councils requesting support for the project. They presented to Turner Valley council during its committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 13 in the Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Hall.

Gillis and Krichbaum listed benefits of backyard hens as being an opportunity for residents to grow healthy chemical-free food, enriching the soil and reducing weeds and insects in yards.

“Towns and cities are already doing it,” she said, using Red Deer, Vancouver and Guelph as examples. “Some are undergoing pilot projects. Different towns are going through different experiences and it’s a good network to get information through.”

Gillis and Krichbaum also discussed common concerns regarding backyard hens, including the potential to attract predators, noise levels, smell, the risk of disease and abandonment of hens.

Gillis told council predators are already present in town and predator proofing is critical when constructing henhouses to deter the animals.

As for noise, Gillis said studies were conducted to measure the decibel level of clucking hens and it was discovered the level is similar to that of people talking. She added the project does not allow roosters.

As for concerns about smell and disease, she said smell shouldn’t be an issue with good housekeeping measures and disease is more common in larger hen operations.

Once the pilot project is complete, if approved, Gillis said it will allow both councils to form an informed decision about allowing backyard hens in town permanently.

Turner Valley Coun. Dona Fluter told Gillis and Krichbaum the Town’s mandate to reduce its footprint by downsizing lots could affect space available for henhouses and suggested operating the project on green spaces in the community.

“Maybe that would be a discussion to have,” she said. “You would have to have a buy in from that particular community area.”

Fluter expressed concerns about the project attracting predators to town.

“Given we are a very rural community that is going to bring in coyotes,” she said. “Those on the border of town do deal with that.”

She said cleanliness is also a concern, adding what one person deems clean isn’t necessarily shared by others.

Fluter said aesthetics might also be an issue among residents not wanting to look over their fence at a henhouse.

Mayor Kelly Tuck said the idea of her neighbour having a henhouse would be difficult to accept.

“Birds scare me,” she said. “If I looked over at hens in my neighbour’s yard I would cry.”

Coun. Barry Williamson told Gillis and Krichbuam their recommendation will go to Town administration before coming back to council for a decision.

“We have to be consistent with how we deal with animals period in our community,” he said. “You’ve got to be consistent in the kinds of animals we have.”

Gillis said she looks forward to hearing back from both councils.

“They seemed very favourable about it,” she said of Black Diamond council’s response. “We’ve been told we will know for sure on the fifth of February. It sounds really promising.”

To learn more about Diamond Valley CLUCK check out their Facebook page. For more information about other communities involved in similar projects go to www.backyardchickens.com

Gillis said information sessions regarding backyard hens will be held at the Sheep River Library in Turner Valley on Feb. 26 and April 30 at 7 p.m.


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