Backyard Chickens. Edmonton, it’s time.

KevinBackyard Chickens, From the Garden32 Comments

I forgive those of you in more progressive cities that will yawn at the title and read something else. You’ve probably heard enough about them where you live, but here, we’re still fighting the fight to have our city allow backyard chickens. Edmonton’s a little behind the ball. According to River City Chickens, Victoria, Vancouver, Guelph, Niagra Falls, and oh, another 300 or so other North American cities have changed bylaws to okay chickens in their cities. The fight’s being fought in countless others, including ours. Seems like an inevitable outcome to me – and if the city wants to be ‘world-class’, they’re going to need to step up on this front as well.

I’d be the first to admit that I don’t know piles about the issue or politics, but I do have a few questions. First, how does it make any sense that I can have a parrot, but not a chicken? Even worse, how can my neighbor have a dog that probably should have about as much room as a horse to roam, poops all over their yard [making my yard stink like dog crap in the hot summer heat, barf], leaves big blotches of dead lawn spots all over the spring, wakes me up barking in the middle of the night, and is realistically a lethal threat to my small children [human children, I mean] okay by the city – but a chicken, not a chicken. What kills me is I’m even okay with the dog – my gripe isn’t the dog, simply the ridiculousness of the logic here. Another neighbour can have cats that roam the land, poop in my garden [that feeds children] and my childrens’ sandbox, require braking to not injure when driving in the back alley, and my option, according to the city, is to trap them if they’re in my yard. Yeah. I’m a former cat owner, and although not always bright, know that trapping said cats would be highly unpopular. But cats, okay by the city. Feces, noise, trespassing, life-threatening – approved!  If a neighbour’s chicken ended up in my yard, the way I see it: free food. I’m pretty sure their rogue chicken would not threaten the life of my children.

Why would I get chickens? With all the moisture this year, I have slugs in my garden. Chickens eat slugs. My brassicas are holy from moth larvae – chickens could deal with that too. I don’t use off-site fertilizers, and chickens offer nitrogen created from them eating plant biomass from my yard. I don’t like to weed, and guess what, chickens eat weed seedlings. Oh yeah, and they produce eggs, daily – extremely high quality eggs. And lots of them. They’re also nice to be around, and won’t kill your children. Apparently they’ll even chase the cats away from pooping in my garden. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

32 Comments on “Backyard Chickens. Edmonton, it’s time.”

  1. Kasia

    Oh Kevin, this post is truly great. I, although being a dog owner, agree with your reasoning. I could not probably train my territorial eight-pound darlings to treat the chickens with the dignity and respect they deserve, should I desire to keep my own, but I am all for the Edmonton being a chicken-friendly city. Here-here!

  2. Joveena

    Touche! Great argument about the offensive noise & scent from those animals which are approved!

    I think there is alot of fear of urban chickens; like urban beekeeping. Councillors, citizens & media need to be educated and if you can alleviate some of the fears there may be a greatly likelihood of a succesful outcome. Maybe even some test “chicken yards”, to see what guidelines need to be in place before a massive roll-out city wide? I’m sure the River City group has looked into all this – they appear to be a well organized group. I agree, it will happen one day!

    I liked your “straight shooter” style on this Blog – great for effect Kevin!

    Keep up the great work! joveena

  3. Bob in Edmonton

    While I’m leery about the smell of chickens (which may be baseless and probably associated with industrial chicken-farming moreso that a small backyard flock), it is hard to argue with the position you advance here.

    I’ve also read a fair bit about ducks being the idea “chicken for cityfolks”–smaller, cleaner and a bit less mean.

    I have friends who have bees in Calgary and regular eat fresh honey but we can’t do this in Edmonton?

  4. Kevin

    Jeff – I laugh at the pixelated faces, every time. I laugh just thinking about it.
    Thanks everyone else for weighing in.

  5. The Celiac Husband

    It’s a windmill fight here. One that could be won though.
    After visiting the home country, the debate came up in our house.
    But when you look at the City’s arguments, you just shake your head.

  6. Greg

    You know that I agree with you on all counts, but let me toss in some cautionary points now that I know a bit about keeping chickens:

    – They do generate smell, even in small numbers. It’s not so much a poopy smell as a ‘chicken’ smell, which would simply be new to the Edmonton olfactory tapestry, hardly the worst thing out there. It only rises sometimes, notably after a burst of rain, or on a still, hot day. However, allotting min 2 sq ft of space per bird (3 for laying hens) means that most city backyard lots wouldn’t get loaded with all too many birds. I’d recommend no more than 20 birds, actually, per small back yard.

    – There would be a shift in the predatory chain, both the presence and (subtle to us) odour enticing animals. Suddenly, urban coyotes would be additionally maligned, maybe. Those roaming dogs and cats are as likely as not to start stealing birds. Ditto for skunks, raccoons, others. Maybe some policy should be in place about how to manage (versus slaughter) what could become, to urban chicken keepers, pests.

    – They will eat anything, not just the slugs and weeds in your garden. Thoroughly untrainable (they are, after all, bird-brains). Some degree of containment is necessary, and could help with the above points.

    I’m sure complete examples of how to make it work can be found in any of those other 300 cities, but maybe they run into problems that can be accounted for beforehand, a small bonus for Edmonton having taken so long to _get back_ (mark you) to allowing chickens.

  7. Robin-Taine B

    I want chickens and bees…just read a book called Farm City about a woman who even had pigs in her urban setting. “Urban farming” was how people lived not so long ago; Edmonton needs to catch up!

  8. Judy Z

    I too love the pixelated chicken faces. Did you take those photos in a back yard near you and have to protect the identity of those chickens?
    Greg, I actually think that Vancouver only allows up to four chickens per backyard. Fat chance Edmonton would allow twenty when currently they don’t allow any.

  9. A Canadian Foodie

    I have been following the movement and signing petitions for a few years now. I love the unidentifiable chickens. I am still laughing. Great piece!
    Now IS the time.

  10. Sharon in Surrey

    Yeah, you can have ‘pet’ chickens in Vancouver BUT you must register them, The housing must be approved, they can’t make any noise, you can’t raise them for meat, you can’t slaughter them & you can only have THREE. Oh, and no roosters allowed because no one wants to hear them. Why bother??? No one had said ANYTHING about ducks. Or pigs. My girlfriend raised a pig in her yard a couple of years ago. She has a nice yard surrounded by trees with everything in the middle where no one can see. The pig lived in a pen next to the dog & slept in a trailer at night. It even had a kiddie pool & ate boxes of veggie & fruit trimmings from the market down the road. When it was big enough, they closed the trailer door & took it to be slaughtered & inspected & tucked it into the freezer in nice little parcels. Now that’s Urban Farming!

  11. Evelyn

    A little civil disobedience isn’t a bad thing when the laws don’t make sense. Check with your neighbours first because they will make noise. I’m amazed at the crowing my hens do, so it’s not the secret I originally wanted to keep. People know about my birds and no one cares (although they are curious).

    Greg made some good points though. Although chickens will eat slugs (yay!), and cabbage worms (yay!), they also love brassicas, lettuce and spinach. In no time they can eat their way through my brocolli, especially when little. I put temporary fencing around the garden until things are well established and even then accept a few losses. In the future I will try to put those in the front yard and things they don’t like in the back. Work around it.

    And they do have a smell. It’s not (in my opinion) a bad smell or a strong smell, but it’s an odor on a hot day. Keep the bedding deep and fresh and it’s fine. But when I clean the henhouse and empty it into the compost pile, my immediate neighbour definitely is aware. They need to be on board and okay with it. I have a smelly smoker on one side of me and a dog on the other – both have been great for two years so far.

    We have few predators in the city for chickens. Loose dogs and cats are not legal either, and I’ve had no problems with either of them. They sleep in a protected coop and wander freely around the back yard during the day.

    I say you should get a few hens if you’ve got the space. What’s the real risk? If bylaw enforcers come knocking, I think you have 30 days to correct the situation (find a new happy home for your hens) or pay a fine. Or you could choose to be an example to help change the laws. You are a more public figure than I am (or ever want to be) so it might be a good message.

  12. Kevin

    You’re totally right Kev. I inquired with the bylaw officer in Orangeville and as progressive as they are in many respects, backyard chicken keeping isn’t on the menu. I’m going to see what we can do to get the laws changed — any suggestions are welcome!

  13. SherryGreens

    It is really time Edmonton, it is really time. I agree that dogs are worse than chickens, especially loud lethal ones, which we also have 2 doors down (I also have young kids). I would like to add bees to the list. Bees need a helping hand anyway, why not a home in my backyard? Bees just want to suck on flowers, not your blood (like mosquitos)! If the bylaw was ever changed, I would get in line to get some chickens, but wonder what to do with them in the winter…

  14. Chris

    Count me in as another supporter of the Urban Chickens movement in Edmonton. We had about 50 chickens on our small acreage years ago, and they were some of the easiest pets and egg-layers we had. It’s important to change the bedding often to control the small (after all, there’s plenty of ammonia in it!), but this is no different than changing your cat’s litterbox when it becomes pungent.

    I wonder a lot about the cultural climate that makes the City of Edmonton’s attitude towards chickens so different from other major cities like Vancouver. Is it because we are so close to surrounding farmland, and people are afraid of rural encroachment? :)

  15. Mark

    Great blog Kevin. Regarding chickens, you have a great platform here for an online petition! I’m not saying, I’m just saying…
    I grew up with chickens and agree 100% with the dog vs chicken argument. Sad in a way that dogs don’t produce eggs but then we wouldn’t have a chicken issue I suppose.

  16. eddybettyshreddy

    I love this story, especially your creative humour with the chicken protection program.

    I live west of sw of Edmonton in Thorsby a small farming community. I am a farmer at heart living in town. A few years ago I decided I wanted chickens since my yard was too small for horses cows and sheep. I found there was no bylaw against it so I built a large pen and coop. I am also an artist and decorator so naturally I wanted it all to look nice to.
    Before I checked the town for laws against chickens I had already reasoned this: why the hell not!

    My chicken discoveries are as follows

    Chickens are quieter than dogs (I have 3)
    Chickens are not destructive like cats ( I have 3)
    Chickens poop less then my cats and dogs
    My cats are not outside cats therefore they do not crap in my yard or my neighbors
    My neighbors cats crap in my yard
    My chickens do not poop in my neighbours yard
    My chickens do not wake my neighbours at night or disturb their afternoon nappies with loud clucking
    Chicken poop serves a purpose (awesome fertilizer)
    Chickens are very funny and entertaining and don’t need daily walks outside their pen
    Dogs need to be entertained or they will become destructive in their boredom
    Dogs need to be excersized outside their yard or pen
    My cats are destructive in my house continually, daily, hourly.
    Chickens provide me amazing eggs
    My cats provide me with amazing barfed up hair balls.
    I pick my chicken poo daily as I do my dogs and cats. In summer and fall I dig my chicken poo into my garden compost earth. In winter I bag it and either use or sell it when it’s aged enough.

    I’ve found that some breeds are noisy (when they announce a new birth) but some are very quiet. I now have 8 who are also extremely friendly and curious and quiet. My neighbors say they really enjoy watching them as they come running to everything they see.

    I totally believe in healthy happy getting back to ALMOST the bare basics living ( I am after-all enjoying this computer world) I bake my own bread, produce my own eggs, make my own dirt (compost) hang my clothes to dry 99% of the time (healthy homey choice) scan second hand stores for many items (this leaves me more cash for things I have or want to buy new) and really prefer the simple life (but I am an artist so my home does not reflect boring simple or cheap)

    Check out my webpage and see how much fun it is to be me.

  17. Pingback: Episode 36 – Backyard Hens, Part 1 - Kevin Kossowan | Kevin Kossowan

  18. Wes

    My wife and I just got a few chicks from Westlocks hatchery. We both grew up outside of Edmonton and had chickens as young kids. We are planning to keep them in our backyard, and we have plenty of room and good fencing, even a shed we will insulate and heat. The chicks are chirping in our kitchen right now! They will go outside when big enough.

    I understand that this is technically not legal, but for the points made above, I don’t see how this is the case. If we are fined, we will pay the ticket and have some chicken for dinner :( , there is no point fighting the law. We can change the laws (maybe) by illustrating the right way to raise chickens properly!

  19. Rob - @formerfatguy

    I too am considering getting permission from my neighbors (first) and then just going ahead with it

  20. scott

    I too am very perplexed at Edmonton’s position against people have a small number of friendly cluckers. I have seen with my own eyes chickens in Paris and Berlin.

    I think most people have seen some footage of large industrial production of chickens where they are squeezed so tightly together without real light. Auschwitz for birds is legal ! and so unnecessary.

    A city that doesn’t allow innovations to cultivate is deficient.

  21. Stefan

    I just wanted to point out that this article is almost a year old already and all the points made are still very valid. Sadly, nothing has changed in this city as far as letting us go back to basics when it comes to greening the planet with chickens as a start.

    Want to help make a change? SIGN THE PETITION @

    On a side note, another interesting battle going on in the city is beekeeping which is also not allowed. Personally would like to have a beehive so I can eliminate sugar from my diet, improve my garden’s output while helping all plants within a 5 km radius to do the same – I can’t see what’s wrong with that!?!

    I think most yards could accommodate a couple goats, several chickens and a beehive to round it all off for great money saving, health increasing results: Eggs, Milk, Honey and of course meat if you butcher your animals.

  22. Mario

    Hi I read the comments and are all great, but what do you do with the hens during winter??? Please, give me a tip !


  23. ibrahim

    Hello kevin and everyone,

    I got directed to this website through online research regarding the so called bylaw for backyard chickens,
    well let me start by saying every individual who choose to raise chicken in their backyard they should be free to do so,

    I laugh when the city acts unfair to groups that raise a Question,
    what’s in a chicken that would make it illegal to have?

    1- is it the noise? well some of them are quiet no?

    even the noise of a chicken is not as bad as a ( SIRENS ) going off in the middle of the night when they’re no traffic on roads, and waking up all the kids on the block. that’s not noisy?

    well maybe if we agreed to pay tax on that then the vote will be accepted, chicken tax lol.


  24. Corey Sieben

    Watching his episode 36 video, and it made me want to keep chickens as well. I would have no problem with a neighbour keeping a coop. The chicken clucks are actually a soothing sound that could help block out the sirens and happy dogs.
    I am going to e-mail my mayor everyday and help get this bylaw removed. I ask everyone else to as well

  25. Aiden

    I certainly hope that things change soon! I’m moving to Edmonton within the year and would love to have some chickens around, not only for the gardening benefits, but for the companionship too since there are some very mild, friendly breeds out there.
    I personally believe that the government really needs to take a more logical view on animals in general seeing as people and animals who don’t deserve the bad rap get fleck due to the misdeeds of a few thoughtless people.

  26. Jim

    I want to have some chicken or duck running around my back yard too . Too bad we can ‘t , i have so many slug in my garden . They eat slug , that is great if i have 1 or 2 chicken in my back yard

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