Backyard hens have been allowed in Sparwood since November last year, and while uptake has been minimal given the season since, the original proponent, Cara Dawn, said that she couldn’t be more happy with the outcome – being legal backyard hens.
Dawn, who grew up in a small northern Alberta town, said that backyard hens was about more than growing your own food – it was about education too.
“I wanted my kids to learn where food sources come from and the dedication and work ethic that goes with it,” she said.
She got all her ducks (or hens?) in a row and made what turned out to be a solid case to the Sparwood council back in April 2021 to amend the district bylaw to allow backyard hens, and while lengthy, the process had been relatively painless.
“The support I received was absolutely amazing from both the community, mayor, staff, and council,” said Dawn.
Under the bylaw changes, Sparwood residents can have up to five hens. Regulations around the properties where they can be kept, conditions of pens, standards and expectations are high – but drawn from best practices from around the province with a focus on limiting attracting wildlife to town, and to avoid neighbourly disputes.
Dawn said the regulations were all well and good – a few hoops were no issue for those that were committed.
“I’m very excited for our little community and this opportunity we have been given.
“My neighbours willingly signed the application form, as you have to have all adjacent neighbours permission before you can apply for your permit.
“They haven’t heard my birds and have commented that they don’t even know they are back there.”
Chickens are considered to be a wildlife attractant, as their feed – and the chickens themselves – can draw in hungry critters. In 2021, the Elk Valley had a bad year for human-bear conflict, with local Conservation Officers killing 31 bears that had become habituated to being around humans. The timing of allowing chickens in such a year was briefly considered before the bylaw was changed in 2021, but the stringent requirements were deemed to be enough.
For Dawn, things were working out.
“It was a lot of work securing our coop and run to keep predators out but so far we have had a 100 percent success rate. All of our hens are happy and safe.”
Those four hens produce a dozen eggs every three days, according to Dawn, who has her children play key roles in their care.
“Aside from the responsibility and food source that comes with owning chickens they are absolutely entertaining and fun. They have the best personalities and bring so much happiness.”
She said they were a lot of work though – so those thinking about getting hens shouldn’t do so lightly.
“I spend a lot of time cleaning and caring for my birds and did a bunch of research on breeds and chicken set ups before I brought them home but I wouldn’t ever want to be without them now.”
According to the District of Sparwood, applications for the $30 permit fee for backyard hens have been minimal, with only one processed as of March 2022.
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