Original Published 05:00 May 11, 2022

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Backyard hens and bees were back on the table for discussion at the regular Tuesday, April 19 Wheatland County council meeting following a motion to reconsider proposed amendments to the county’s Land Use Bylaw (LUB).

Second reading of the proposed LUB amendments, which would allow county residents in Hamlet Residential General (HRG) districts to keep backyard hens and bees, was initially struck down following a public hearing at the regular March 22 meeting.

 “Following the public hearing (on March 22) council was generally in favour of the amendments; however, the proposed modifications considering Backyard Hens and Beekeeping generated some discussion regarding further amendments needed to ensure public health and safety,” Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link told the Mail.

 Amendments were not limited to only backyard hens and bees and included wineries and alcohol production, manufactured dwellings, and accessory building setbacks.

 “Many of these items were not contentious and raised no concern throughout the in-depth engagement process,” Reeve Link noted. She added the motion to reconsider was carried unanimously by council members and was added to the April 19 agenda for reconsideration.

 Planning and Development planner Taylor Felt presented council with further proposed amendments. This would remove backyard hens and bees from a permitted use to discretionary use, requiring anyone looking to keep these animals to apply for a development permit; the permit would further need to be approved by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) and may be issued with or without conditions.

 Council and administration spoke at length about further changes to the proposed amendments presented.

 Reeve Amber Link asked Eagle Lake to be removed from the restricted residential district and be included in the HRG district. She noted while residents in the restricted residential districts of Speargrass and Lakes of Muirfield had not expressed interest in keeping their own backyard hens or bees, she had some ratepayers from Eagle Lake express interest.

 Another discussion point surrounded striking the proposed minimum age of hens, set at 16 weeks, from the bylaw and allowing residents to also rear chicks. Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen shared raising chicks can be challenging and is a lot of work, but provides an educational aspect and allows children to get involved.

 “If you can keep a chick alive, you can keep a hen alive. The growing part of it is the hardest part, and that’s where the kids get involved,” he stated during the meeting.

 While it was noted the age limit could reduce the chances of rearing a rooster, both Deputy Reeve Klassen and Division 7 Councillor Rick Laursen added there are options to prevent or cull roosters.

 Following discussion, council passed second and third reading of the LUB as amended, with only one vote in opposition, to allow backyard hens and bees as a discretionary use under the amended LUB.

This item reprinted with permission from The Drumheller Mail, Drumheller, Alberta