A hen for every household? Edmonton urban chicken program starting to hatch

The incubation process for new urban chicken farmers in Edmonton is well underway, with three new operations hatched since the city lifted its cap on coops and another 27 in the process.

Following the success of an urban chicken pilot project launched in 2014, the city in late May lifted its restriction on the number of backyard coops, which had limited licences to 50.

There are currently 48 approved sites operating, city spokesperson Chrystal Coleman told CBC News. An additional 27 people are in various stages of the application process and the city is fielding one to two applications per week. There is no longer a waiting list.

By comparison, in March when there were 45 active hen operations and 14 applicants awaiting approval for the five remaining slots. 

Becoming a fully licensed chicken tender takes time, Coleman said, which partly explains why only three new coops were approved this summer.

Before getting a final inspection, applicants must take an introductory training course, obtain a building permit and construct a coop that meets all the city requirements, Coleman said.

'Tiny farm in my backyard'

It was worth the wait for Jenn Lindstrom, a mother and heavy duty mechanic, who brought four hens home to roost in her Mayfield backyard last week. She had been on the waiting list for two years. 

Delaney the white Delaware, Popcorn the gold-laced Wyandotte and the two Australorps, Betty and Cecelia, have become her prized possessions.

"I made sure I was very informed as to what needed to be done so there wasn't a lot of feet-dragging by any means," she said. 

"I wanted the experience for my kids," she said. "Having this tiny farm in my backyard, it made sense to us." 

River City Chicken Collective

Lindstrom had submitted her application in late June. Her hen house was approved last Wednesday.

And now she has fresh eggs every day and a way to teach her children about where their food comes from. 

Would-be poultrymen should not be spooked away by the application process, she said. It was time-consuming but straightforward. 

"Because of the application, I think a lot of people are scared off by it," she said. "It's for the well-being of the hens. We have certain guidelines we have to consider, especially in the city. It's just like licensing your dog or cat. 

"That's how I explained it to my kids, 'It's a pet that gives us food, we're not going to eat them.' "