Stettler County

Gadsby resident fighting to keep chickens on her property

Kim Cooper is hoping the courts will support her intention to keep them

A Gadsby resident is hoping a court decision in June will allow for her to keep chickens on her property.

Currently, Kim Cooper has 10 chickens, and has been raising them for nine years.

“I would like to see the bylaw changed, because it’s not just myself. I’m the only one in the village of Gadsby who has chickens at the moment. But I’ve got a few neighbours who would love to have them,” she said. “I’ve had birds for nine years now, and it’s never been an issue until my first fine, which was three weeks ago. All of a sudden, I have to start fighting for something that I’ve owned for nine years.”

Cooper said the money she saves from having fresh eggs available to her and her family is significant as well – totalling about $178 per month.

Stettler County council chose not to support an urban chicken bylaw last year after a public hearing was held.

“I’ve already went around Gadsby and asked people if they are okay with the chickens – not just mine, but for other people to have them as well. Out of the 27 people (I asked), 24 said they would like them,” she said.

“So you have a super high percentage of people in that one little village that are saying, ‘Yes, we would love to have them’.”

Cooper said even if she was told that after her chickens die and she wouldn’t be allowed to have more – she could accept that.

“But to say, ‘No, you can’t have them. You’ve had them for this long and you can’t have them – we need to you to get rid of them’. That is unacceptable. It’s cruel,” she said.

Interestingly, a resident across the street from Cooper does have chickens, but that property is zoned agricultural.

In the meantime, these days, Cooper feels like she has no other choice but to go to court.

“These are my pets, and I’ve been caring for them,” she said. “It’s not just the money I save from the eggs, it’s the fertilizer that we get, too,” she said. “For nine years, there wasn’t a complaint and then all of a sudden within the last year there is a complaint.”

Meanwhile, Cooper is collecting signatures from other Gadsby residents and the surrounding hamlets and communities in hopes to see a change in the bylaw.

“It will be a petition to change the bylaw. My first petition was, are you okay with the chickens?

“But this will be a petition to change the bylaw,” she said.

“I would do anything that they asked just to be able to keep them.”

According to Cara McKenzie, development officer with the County, what it comes down to is that the Village of Gadsby, in their current bylaw, have listed the keeping of animals (livestock) as an agricultural operation.

The village land use bylaw is still in place, she said.

Currently, the County of Stettler has introduced first reading to merge that land use bylaw with the County of Stettler land use bylaw. But even if it’s adopted, the rules still remain the same, said McKenzie. “Chickens are not permitted in the residential district.

“It’s very clearly defined in the land use bylaw. The property on which Ms. Cooper lives falls within the residential district of the village,” explained McKenzie.

“The residential district does not allow for an agricultural operation.”

McKenzie said that in the past, a bylaw was brought forward that did propose to allow for the keeping of urban chickens.

“We sent out a survey to all of our residents within the hamlet and within all of the hamlets within the County of Stettler looking for feedback. That feedback was then presented to County council,” she said, adding that the bylaw was ultimately defeated.

“They are standing firm on the position that urban chickens…within the hamlet and subdivisions are not the direction that they want to go. So that leaves us with the current bylaw which does not allow for chickens within a residential district.”

She said that the Village of Gadsby, under its former administration, chose not to do enforcement when it came to their own land use bylaw relating to the chickens.

But what essentially brought the issue to the surface was that there has been complaints, she said.

“The County operates on a complaint-driven basis. We don’t go looking for trouble, but if trouble finds us, we do look into corrections for that,” she said.

Basically, there just isn’t a resolution in sight that would be satisfactory to everyone involved, she said.

“It’s unfortunate, and I don’t think anyone feels good about it, but that’s the way the development system works,” she said. “I wish there was a more satisfactory solution that we could apply, but the bylaw just doesn’t allow for us to do that.

“At the end of the day, when it comes down to this situation, what does the bylaw say? The bylaw is very clear.”