Thursday, February 7, 2013

Catching Up With CLUCK Red Deer

Hello again! Unfortunately blogging hasn't been much of a priority here (clearly) but that doesn't mean things aren't CLUCKing along merrily around us.

February 2013 marks one year from the initial decision by Red Deer City Council to instigate a 12-month pilot project for allowing Urban Hens. We weren't really sure what was planned by the City, if anything -we hadn't heard anything.. which we figured must be GOOD. We figured that if there were any problems, we certainly would have heard about them.

Just to touch base with each other, we had a bit of a meeting, anyway. Only a few of us were able to attend and we discussed a few items but it all boiled down to: no news is good news, just sit tight.

A couple of days later, Adrienne received an e-mail from the Inspections & Licensing Dept (I&LD) letting us know that they were submitting a report to City Council and that if we wanted to do the same we could -but we had to do so by noon the next day. It was quite a surprise and a bit of a scramble but we managed to share some ideas and I was able to put them into a reasonable format and get it in the next morning.

I&LD advised us that they have received 'minimal' complaints about Urban Hens in Red Deer. While 'minimal' is somewhat vague, we know of no direct complaints about CLUCK members. Off the tops of our heads, we tried to count the number of families that we knew had coops and hens IN Red Deer right now. We came up with 16. Adding to that the certainty that there are others who may or may not be members of the Facebook community, we estimate 20-30 coops. THIRTY. MINIMAL complaints.

Know what that means? IT MEANS THAT IT WORKS. That it is truly, clearly possible to keep chickens in the city without bothering people. *Insert happy dance.* That small flocks (6 hens or under), in well-managed (clean) coops, without roosters (quiet) can be good neighbours.

I mentioned this in the report (but without the bold & italics and happy dance) and mentioned (with references) current RD City initiatives with which Urban Hens can play a significant role:

Waste Management Master Plan -Urban Hens happily turn kitchen scraps (with balanced layer rations) into eggs, reducing household waste! **From the Winnipeg Urban Chicken Association’s Report for Council (Dec 2012);
(1 hen) (7 pounds food waste/month) (12 months) = approx. 84 pounds Big deal, you think. That’s not so much. But what if Winnipeg had 2,000 homes with 6 hens? (6 hens) (84 pounds of food waste/hen/year) (2,000 homes) = 1,008,000 pounds (504 tonnes) of biomass diverted from the Brady Road Landfill, and a savings of $21,924 in tipping fees ($43.50/ tonne) per year. The tax savings in not having to handle, transport and store all that biomass waste by reusing them onsite is staggering, especially since no operating costs exist.” (You can read the whole report here, it is many, many kinds of awesome.)

Composting -(This is the one I am personally VERY excited about) chickens are! Who needs aerating tools when hens get such joy in scratching, turning your piles, snacking, fertilizing, and keeping pests at bay?

Environmental Master Plan -Yes, Urban Hens are environmentalists. Fewer emergency trips to the grocery store for eggs=reduced vehicle emissions. Snacking on slugs, ants, mosquitoes, cutworms, dandelions, creeping bell flower (*I shake my fist at bell flower*) means less desire for pesticides.

So.. we will now have to just have to wait to see what Council decides to do at this point. Update: the reports will be addressed by Council on Tuesday, February 19th.
In the meantime, we'll keep on CLUCKing, enjoying our super fresh eggs,  and eagerly rub hands to watch slugs turn into eggs this spring.

I would also like to take a moment here to mention that in the Fall of 2012, CLUCK Red Deer was specifically asked by Olds College if we could teach a course there as a part of their 2013 Hort Week! How awesome is that?! (Very!) We determined that Deborah and I would be available this summer so we will be co-teaching a half-day course on, you guessed it, Keeping Urban Hens! They don't have the courses listed yet on their site and we're not sure what the cost will be, but once we have more information we'll be sure to post it up on the Facebook page and here. (I promise!)

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