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Survey shows support for raising chickens, bees in Olds

Draft bylaw outlining the rules expected early in the new year

OLDS — The results are in from a six-week survey on what animals residents should be allowed to raise in Olds.

The results show a strong majority of respondents, 67 per cent, are OK with chickens and bees being raised in town.

Forty-four per cent of respondents said regulations should be in place for those who raise chickens in Olds.

Twenty-three per cent said people should be allowed to raise chickens in the community without regulations.  

However, almost all of those who were surveyed, more than 90 per cent, said residents should only be allowed to raise up to 10 chickens in any given yard.

Many also want rules in place to control odours, noise and to prevent unsightly yards.

As for bees, 47 per cent said beekeeping should be allowed in town as per provincial regulations.

Twenty-seven per cent said they should be permitted by the Town with further licensing or regulations. 

Nineteen per cent said beekeeping should be prohibited in the community.

Seven per cent were unsure or undecided on whether beekeeping should be allowed in town.

However, respondents did not show much enthusiasm to having larger animals like horses or cows raised in town.

“People didn’t really want their municipality to become a farm yard,” said Jennifer Lutz, the town's community facilitator, as she presented the survey results to council during its Oct. 5 policies and priorities meeting.

The survey was a step toward the eventual creation of an Animal Control Bylaw.

But don’t expect one right away.

Chief administrative officer Michael Merritt and community services director Doug Wagstaff both warned a bylaw setting out all those rules won’t likely be presented to council for approval until some time early in the new year.

The survey was a combination of online and paper responses as well as a telephone survey. It cost $2,002.26.

In total 760 responses were collected.

Lutz described that response as “awesome,” noting initially organizers had hoped to obtain 500 responses.

“In comparison, we had a 10-week cannabis survey and that was just over a thousand responses, so this was obviously an issue that was a concern to a lot of people and people are interested in it,” she said.

According to Lutz, most respondents want those who wish to raise chickens or bees in town to shoulder that cost themselves via licensing and/or fees.

Coun. Wanda Blatz said people who wish to raise chickens or bees in town should have to apply to do so.

She said and such requests should be taken to the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), which, in turn, would ensure that neighbours are canvassed for their opinions on that request.

Several councillors agreed with that idea.

Coun. Mitch Thomson saw a chance to get in a joke.

“I’m glad that some people made some comments about the chickens not free ranging, because I certainly do not want to be in here talking about why the chicken crossed the road,” he said.

Coun. Mary Anne Overwater wondered how the bylaw will be enforced.

She noted in the responses, lots of concern was raised about cats roaming free.

“I really can’t see our bylaw guy out running after chickens on the road trying to catch them. I mean, that would be a gong show,” she said.

Coun. Heather Ryan echoed that concern, suggesting another peace officer might have to be hired to enforce the bylaw, and if so, residents should be canvassed as to whether they’d be willing to pay for that extra officer.

Ryan also suggested that perhaps those wishing to raise chickens or bees should have to take a course on how to look after them because she would not want any to suffer.

“I think that people get into it sometimes thinking that ‘oh, it will be fun to have four or five birds in my backyard, you know, eggs every day',” Ryan said.

“They get into it without the understanding of all the factors that go into it, including proper pens and what do you do to heat it in the wintertime?”

She also questioned what will be done with chicken feces – for example, whether they could be composted.

In the end, council voted to accept Lutz’s presentation as information with the understanding that an Animal Control Bylaw and Land Use Bylaw amendments will be brought back to a future policies and priorities meeting.