While the Town of High Prairie debates on whether to allow bees and chickens in town, a woman in Peace River is enjoying her hens, with no complaints
South Peace News
Backyard hen enthusiast Anjil Shimoon has both Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock hens in her coop in Peace River.
She got the hens about a year and a half ago, and says the process of getting a permit took about 5-10 minutes at her local SPCA.
She also made sure her coop was small enough she didn’t need a development permit.
“It was almost like a romantic idea of having chickens,” Shimoon says. “This little image of, ‘Oh, I can go out and feed the hens and gather the eggs.’”
Shimoon says hens lay about two eggs every three days, so with six chickens she will typically get about four to five eggs a day and sometimes half a dozen.
“That is more than enough for myself and leaves a lot to share, trade with, and give away as presents. I eat a lot of egg salad sandwiches now,” Shimoon says.
She says her chickens have other benefits besides laying eggs.
“They love eating weeds so when I weed my garden in the summertime that goes to the chickens and they love that.”
Shimoon has a large vegetable garden, collects rainwater, and composts, and the chickens fit with her attempts to build a more sustainable lifestyle.
In a time of new scarcity, when grocery stores are often running out of key items due to people shopping for weeks at home, her chickens provide a stable and consistent source of eggs. As meat birds, they could also be eaten, if needed.
“It almost validated what I wanted to do,” she says.
High Prairie town council has begun looking at allowing both hen keeping and beekeeping within town limits after Crystal Sturgeon attended the regular meeting of council on Jan. 28, 2020.
Sturgeon hopes the Animal Control Bylaw can be changed to allow residents to raise hens and bees. She wants to have four hens and two beehives on her property.
Other Peace region municipalities have already grappled with whether to allow chickens.
Grande Prairie’s bylaw allows for urban beekeeping. In late March 2018, Grande Prairie city council voted in favour or amending the Animals and Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to allow 15 exemption permits for backyard hens for a one-year trial period.
Meanwhile, Fort St. John decided against allowing backyard hens around the same time.
Communities in Alberta that allow backyard chickens include Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer, and Peace River.
While people often worry about noise, Shimoon says hens are relatively quiet compared to other common sounds like traffic and dogs barking.
In fact, her neighbour remarked to her the chickens were quieter than they expected.
“When you only have six and you don’t any roosters, they’re pretty quiet. There are some mornings I can hear them, but for the most part it’s a pleasant sound,” she says.
Shimoon says the hens are up earliest during the long hours of sunlight in the northern summer.
In winter, they don’t tend to lay as much due to the low sunlight, and Shimoon says based on her research, having a light in the coop in winter to stimulate more laying is very unnatural for chickens and may shorten their laying life.
The coop she uses doesn’t have a light or any power, and instead is very well insulated and uses passive solar principles to keep the chickens warm in cold weather. Proper airflow keeps condensation from falling onto the combs of the birds.
The chickens themselves are also cold, hardy breeds.
Keeping power and lights out of the coop helps prevent coop fires, which Shimoon says is a major consideration in backyard hen keeping.
“Obviously it’s devastating to lose all of the chickens in the coop, but it could also spread,” she says.
Shimoon says her time commitment to care for the hens is minimal, unless there is a problem to address like a gate freezing shut in winter.
Her largest investment of time and money was setup, including building the coop.
“It’s a bit daunting at the start,” she says.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have enough eggs for it to pay for itself and what was put in to the coop, but to me it’s still worth it. I get so much out of it in other ways that it’s overall it was worth the time and the money.”
Shimoon says it’s nice seeing how many people walk by and are intrigued or interested by her hens.
“I enjoy talking with people about it, and little kids that maybe have never seen real chickens coming up to the fence and checking it out.”
Shimoon says the chickens themselves are also a lot more social than she thought they would be.
“I didn’t grow up around chickens so I really jumped in not having that experience, but now because they know me they do come right up. I know they associate me with food. They’ll be kind of like my little flock, they’ll stand around my feet and make their little chicken sounds and follow me around a little bit.