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Chicken-control bylaw on town council's plate

Edict expected to be back in front of Town of Westlock councillors in June
Town of Westlock councillors got a first look at a new chicken-control bylaw at their May 15 committee of the whole meeting.

WESTLOCK – Chicken owners in the Town of Westlock could soon need a permit to keep their egg-laying feathered friends.   

Town councillors discussed the new chicken-control bylaw at the May 15 committee of the whole meeting and voted unanimously 7-0 to have administration bring it back for review June 12. CAO Simone Wiley noted that councillors discussed an animal-control bylaw several years ago that included chickens, but it did not receive third reading. 

“Recently our peace officer and myself have received a lot of inquiries (asking) if chickens are allowed in the community,” said Wiley, noting they’re currently not regulated by the town. “What this causes for us is, where there are chickens in town, there’s no enforcement mechanism so when they become a nuisance to neighbours and complaints come in our peace officer has no ability to deal with that complaint.”

The most recent complaint came two weeks ago from someone living in a rental unit in Westlock. Wiley said they were able to contact the landlord to settle the matter. 

“We (said) your tenants have a rooster and it’s waking everybody up and that’s not being a very good neighbour,” said Wiley noting while the issue was dealt with, the town has no other mechanism “for us to say you can’t have a rooster.”

The proposed bylaw will be straightforward and not complicated and one that is specific to chickens. People wishing to have chickens would be required to complete an application and acquire a permit that would be free of charge, noted Wiley, “just so we know who has them.” If the applicant is a tenant in a rental situation, the landlord would need to sign the application as landowner.

There’ll a four-chicken limit per residence, they’ll only be permitted for the purpose of egg production (with no chicks or chickens allowed for slaughter), no roosters will be allowed and if a permit is approved and a resident breaks the bylaw, they’ll be fined $250.  

Following Wiley’s presentation, councillors discussed the proposed bylaw, asked several questions and provided comments and feedback.

Coun. Murtaza Jamaly said he wasn’t a fan of the bylaw last time chickens were discussed and noted it was complicated. “I don’t know what the right number of chickens is, like what’s the difference between having five chickens and eight chickens? How does this bylaw differ from dogs or cats or bees or pigs, where does the discussion end?” he said. “Urban farming is becoming a more popular thing to do.”  He also inquired about zoning and the possibility of creating “an urban agriculture zone” to create a neighbourhood that was centred around urban agriculture. 

Coun. Abby Keyes noted with rising food costs that having chickens to provide eggs for families is something people are considering, while mayor Ralph Leriger agreed with Wiley that “simpler is better” but also noted that there should be a nominal fee for the permit.

Coun. Jon Kramer asked what the process would be for residents who currently have chickens but don’t want to get a permit and in situations when bylaw enforcement is called. He also inquired about creating a separate chicken-control bylaw or an animal- control bylaw that would include other animals such as chickens.

“They would be required to get a permit or get rid of their chickens because we (would) have a bylaw that says you have to have a permit to have chickens,” explained Wiley. “Those are two very different things. Administratively we brought just chicken control (forward) because that’s what we’re seeing right now is requests for chickens.”

Kristine Jean,

Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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