Opinions clash on backyard chicken pilot project

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 08:33 am

Diamond Valley CLUCK members Heather Gillies (left) and Margaret Krichbaum addressed concerns about their backyard hen pilot project proposal last week.
Diamond Valley CLUCK members Heather Gillies (left) and Margaret Krichbaum addressed concerns about their backyard hen pilot project proposal last week.
Wheel File Photo

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The topic of backyard hens ruffled some Diamond Valley residents’ feathers at a public meeting last week.

Those opposed to the idea of their neighbours having three to eight hens in their backyard expressed concerns to the Diamond Valley Canadian Liberate Urban Chicken Klub’s (CLUCK) during an open house organized by the Town of Black Diamond on Feb. 24.

Diamond Valley CLUCK approached Black Diamond and Turner Valley Town Councils last month, after forming the chapter in July, proposing a pilot project for backyard hens. The Town of Black Diamond organized the meeting to determine public response to the idea before making a decision.

Twenty-five residents from Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Millarville, Nanton and Okotoks attended the open house with varying opinions.

Black Diamond resident Pam O’Brien said she doesn’t understand why people want to raise their own chickens when they can buy locally-grown eggs and meat nearby.

“If they feel so strongly why aren’t they just going to the ranchers and farmers?” she said.

O’Brien said the decision should involve the entire community and people should consider the potential for an increase in taxes if the Town has to invest money to monitor the cleanliness and structures of backyard henhouses.

Betty Frick is concerned chicken owners won’t adequately maintain their chicken coops.

“I don’t want to see a chicken coop in our neighbour’s yard,” said the Black Diamond resident. “I think they are going to get run down and left there.”

Frick is also worried backyard hens will bring down property values and deter those looking to move to the community.

“Who is going to buy out here when they know we are raising chickens in our backyards?” she said.

Diamond Valley CLUCK member Heather Gillies gave a power point presentation listing the benefits of backyard hens, including allowing people to supply their own genetically modified, herbicide and pesticide free foods. She said they provide healthy soil, insect and weed control.

Gillies added Diamond Valley CLUCK will work with the Town to monitor and enforce the cleanliness of henhouses and will offer education to help residents keep henhouses predator and vermin proof.

“If you can keep a predator from being successful they are not going to waste their time,” she said.

Preventing smelly backyards is as simple as good henhouse keeping and ensuring the henhouses are easy to clean, she said.

Some residents are concerned not everyone will comply with the rules, posing a health risk.

Gillies responded that those interested in keeping hens wouldn’t risk their family’s health by keeping an unsanitary environment.

Other worries expressed included the hens attracting predators, abandoned hens and tension between neighbours. One resident suggested having those interested in participating in the pilot project get their neighbours’ approval first.

Some questioned why they should if people can leave their dogs in backyards to bark and not clean up after them.

“We already have that same problem in our community with a different species,” said Lisa Coyne.

In response to those opposed to the pilot project, Diamond Valley CLUCK member Margaret Krichbaum said people need to understand the club is just proposing a pilot project.

“They’ve got to get away from emotional attachments from whatever experiences they had,” she said, adding some are basing their opinions on actions of their neighbours in other situations.

Turner Valley resident Katie Pearson said she has no concerns with the pilot project and hopes it’s approved in Turner Valley so she can supply fresh eggs for her family.

“I should be able to provide my own food the way I would like to do it,” she said. “I should be able to grow organic food if I want.”

Pearson said the project could result in a community co-op where neighbours share food they are growing themselves, making the town more sustainable and creating lasting relationships.

“I see this as a start to something massive,” she said. “It can only be a positive thing.”

With her own experience owning backyard hens in Okotoks before she was ordered to remove them by the Town to comply with bylaws, Jenni Bailey also hopes to see the pilot project approved.

“It’s a passion for me,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Bailey hopes if the communities allow the project it might impact future decisions made by Okotoks’ council.

The Towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley posted a survey to gather public input on the proposal.


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