Some Calgary households will soon be able to keep backyard hens, bees

Calgary council has approved changes to the city's pet ownership bylaw, which among other updates will now allow residents to keep backyard hens. 

Number of licenses for hens will be capped at 100

Calgary will allow people to apply to keep backyard hens. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Calgary council has approved changes to the city's pet ownership bylaw, which among other updates will now allow residents to keep backyard hens and bees. 

Council voted 8-6 in favour of the bylaw changes on Tuesday, before tackling a number of amendments over some of the more contentious parts of the bylaw — like the hens. It was the first time the bylaw has been updated in 12 years. 

Those who decide to keep hens will need to be licensed, after undergoing training and having their coop inspected. The number of hen licenses will be capped at 100. 

"We know that the pilot worked, we know that most Calgarians are OK with it, and we know that when we have bad actors as we do with dogs or cats … we have the tools at our disposal to act on that," Coun. Evan Woolley said.

Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal also allow residents to keep urban hens.

Calgary currently allows chickens if they are designated as emotional support animals, and city administration said there have been no complaints or issues with bobcats or coyotes at the 15 households that do so. 

Coun. Sean Chu brought forward an amendment to remove the updates that would allow hen ownership, which was defeated.

Chu said growing up in Taipei, he had a backyard chicken. He said he worried it will attract predators and create unpleasant odours and other issues for neighbours.

"I believe chicken does not belong in the city, but belongs to the farm," he said. 

But Coun. Druh Farrell said some Calgarians already quietly keep chickens, and she said few would notice. 

"I think this is making a mountain out of a molehill, I find it interesting we are being so controlling with people's lives when other cities are saying no big deal," she said.

"I don't want to overregulate people, I also want animals to be safe, and I think the fear of the urban hen is totally thrown out of proportion."

Other changes

Other bylaw changes include limiting ownership to six dogs and six cats per household, and limiting the number of off-leash dogs a person can bring to an off-leash dog park to six. 

Coun. Woolley raised concerns that the bylaw changes could affect professional dog walkers, so city administration will consult with dog walkers about the cap on off-leash dogs.

Council also voted unanimously that pets at the city impound will now be deemed unclaimed 72 hours after an owner has acknowledged receiving notice their pet was impounded, or seven days after it's been deemed the owner has received notice, and the owner has failed to pick up their animal. 

The bylaw changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022. 

With files from Scott Dippel and Sarah Rieger


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