Winnipeg proposes 2-year pilot program for backyard chickens

Winnipeg chicken enthusiasts may soon be able to take a crack at owning chickens. 

The City of Winnipeg is proposing a two-year pilot program that will allow people to own chickens within city limits.

The program would aim to measure the long-term viability of urban chicken keeping. It would have 20 sites with up to four hens working closely with Animal Services. Applicants will have to fill out an online application form, provide a plan for chicken lifecycles and go through an educational course.

The health and safety of hens is also important, and applicants will need to have plans in place and fulfil specific requirements.

Sarah Jane Martin hopes to have a chicken coop one day at her home in Norwood. (Submitted by Sarah Jane Martin)

Among the first in line to apply for an urban chicken site may be Sarah Jane Martin. The Winnipeg writer got interested in chickens in February when she was hired to speak to non-commercial chicken owners for a chicken feed company.

“The more I was listening to [chicken owners], the more I was just drinking the Kool-Aid,” Martin said.

She looked into Winnipeg’s responsible pet ownership bylaws and was disappointed to find she was not able to keep chickens within the city.

Martin’s rental house in Norwood has a big back yard. Her landlord has chickens — and Martin has a standing offer from him to have some for her future coop.

“I’ve got all this space back here … I may as well make use of all of this empty space in the yard. It’s definitely something I’m considering,” Martin said.

Luc Trudeau is the owner of Farm Dog. He says keeping chickens in the city will result in local food security. (Submitted by Luc Trudeau)

Familial subsistence farmer Luc Trudeau has 200 chickens at his farm in Ste Anne. His company, Farm Dog, produces farm-to-table products such as hot dogs and hand pies. 

He fully supports the proposal to keep chickens in the city, but said being familiar with breeds, incubation and poultry diseases is important before taking on a coop.

“Chickens are not too much more difficult to raise than a house cat or most plants,” Trudeau said.

“Keeping chickens in the city means food security at a very local level.”

Farm Dog’s chicken camera shows an example of a brooder for chicks. (Submitted by Luc Trudeau)

Other cities in Canada are allowing backyard chickens. 

Calgary’s urban hen licensing program began last month. Cities in Ontario are also amending bylaws to allow for urban chicken keeping.

The city’s standing policy committee will meet on April 11 to review the proposal.