Hen test proves to be a success

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Okotoks councillors deserve kudos for their decision to allow homeowners to raise hens in their backyards, and for its handling of the issue in the recent year.

With council’s approval, the hens should have room to run.

Council voted unanimously on Oct. 24 to allow residents to keep hens in their backyards. Existing bylaws – including rules against residents keeping agricultural animals – now need to be changed by September 2017, essentially before the next municipal election.

The decision capped off a 15-month pilot project that saw hens kept in the backyards at 12 homes in the community. The Town did not receive any complaints about the birds during that time period.

The success of the 15-month pilot can be seen in council’s vote. The test-run was approved by a narrow margin with four in support. Three who initially opposed it came around for last week’s 7-0 vote.

The rules set out during the pilot project should be eased moving forward.

Only 18 homes were allowed to have hens under the pilot and this won’t change when bylaws changes are passed.

The Town believed this to be an appropriate number given Okotoks’ population.

Okotoks is growing and this number should grow with it so it’s not too restrictive.

The rules also don’t allow free-range in backyards.

This too should be reconsidered. There may be concerns with hens getting loose, but it shouldn’t be any different than any other pet. Responsible pet owners ensure their animals aren’t able to get out of their yards and that they are safely cared for and sheltered when the weather is bad. And, hens shouldn’t be a flight risk if their wings are clipped.

At the very least, it’s something the Town could monitor and address if it becomes a problem.

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