Urban Hens Program
The urban livestock licensing program enables Calgarians to keep backyard hens under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.
The program will accept 100 applicants in its first year. To ensure equity, if demand exceeds 100 applicants, a lottery system will randomize applications once intake is closed. The 100 applications selected from the lottery will then be processed.
A waitlist of an additional applicants will also be created through the lottery system. The waitlisted applications may be processed in 2022, or will be accepted for the 2023 application intake.
All applicants will be notified, and can expect:
- They may need to go through The City of Calgary Planning and Development Pre-application Enquiry file number process, to begin building their hen coop/run prior to licences being approved in the spring.
- Confirmation of application processing via email. Hen keeping licences to be issued from April through July 2022.
Applicants will be notified if their application will be processed or they are on a waitlist within a week of the application period closing. Applicants will not be able to obtain their hens until the spring, once they have gone through the application process and their licence has been approved.
Please note that flexibility will be granted during the initial program licence processing, to give applicants enough time to complete the required hen keeping training. Applicants will still be able to submit an application without training completed, but will need to provide proof of training later. All other criteria will be needed at time of application.
This gives Calgarians interested in the program enough time to complete the required hen keeping course, development approval process, and site plan for their coops.
Hen licence application
Applications for licensing are now closed for 2022. The next application opportunity will be in 2023.
Provide a signed declaration form
Applicants will need to go through The City of Calgary’s pre-application enquiry file process prior to building their hen coops and runs.
To obtain a pre-application enquiry file number from The City of Calgary Planning and Development, call 403-268-5311 and ask for the pre-application enquiry to be created. You will need the following information:
- your address (where the coop/run will be located)
- size of proposed structure you may build for your hens (total area, heights, if the floor will be elevated from grade)
- approximate location of where the structure will be located
- if you would like to hardwire in electricity to your coop or other building elements
Once you have the file number, you must keep it on hand as it is required throughout the application process.
With the file number, urban hen licence applicants can begin building their coop/run prior to their receiving licence application approval in spring 2022.
If you change your address, you must apply for a new pre-application enquiry file number.
Learn more about Planning and Development requirements for home improvements.
- You must be over 18 years to apply for an urban livestock hen keeping license. If under 18, a parent or guardian must apply on your behalf.
- You must contact Planning and Development to get a pre-application enquiry file number
- Completion of approved training on hen keeping and care (including proof of completion).
- You must be the owner of the property or have secured written permission from the property owner, as a requirement for approval of your licence for backyard hens.
- You will need to acquire a free Premise Identification (PID) number from the Government of Alberta.
- Confirm the number of hen licences are you requesting (the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw requires ownership of between 2 to 4, as hens are group animals). Roosters are not permitted and young hens (pullets) shall not be younger than 16 weeks old.
- Hens must not be acquired before licence is approved.
- All hens must remain in the coop or an enclosed run where they must then stay on the licensed property.
- Contact name of where you would rehome the birds (if needed) outside of Calgary.
To proceed with an urban livestock licence application to keep hens, you must have:
- Pre-application Enquiry file number, issued by The City of Calgary Planning and Development.
- A site plan and details of any housing needed for hens
- Completion of training related to hen keeping and care
- Proof of ownership of property or consent of property owner
- Rehoming contact established
- A veterinarian established that can provide care to livestock
- Premise Identification (PID) Number from the Government of Alberta.
You may proceed with the application once you have all the above documentation in place. Flexibility will be granted to give applicants time to complete the required hen keeping training. Without completed training, you may still apply and provide proof of training later. All other documentation is required at time of application.
All hen keeping applicants must provide a site plan for where the hens will be kept. This would include a sketch of where the coop will be placed on your property, as well as indoor and outdoor dimensions of your planned or current coop.
Referring to your hen keeper training program and manual will be important for site planning. There is an example provided on pages 74-75 of the manual, but please note, in your plan you will need to show where the coop will be situated on your property as well.
Your plan must include:
- Details of the housing/coop and where it will be placed on your property, to demonstrate your ability to maintain the hens’ physical well-being.
- A signed declaration, that you will adhere to generally accepted good hen keeping practices and complete any necessary provincial registration.
- Assurance that you will not keep hens in a manner that causes nuisance or disturbance to the neighbouring community.
- The hen coop and/or run must be in the back yard.
- A minimum of 10.2 sq ft (0.92 m2) of enclosed outdoor space will be required for each hen.
- Enclosed outdoor hen space securely fenced with the fence reaching all the way down to the ground (dug down 18 inches or wrapped around the bottom).
- If there are spaces between the fence and the ground, these will need to be covered with galvanized wire or closed off.
- If applicants need to hardwire electrical into their coop, they will need to apply for a Residential Electrical Permit.
- Hen coop specifications:
- Applicants are required to obtain a Pre-application Enquiry file number, issued by The City of Calgary Planning and Development for coops. (It is not necessary for the coop to be built before the Enquiry file number has been issued). If already built, the coop must be a minimum of 4.2 sq ft (0.37 m2)/chicken. If the coop is over 107 sq ft (10 m2), you will require a development permit.
- The chicken coop must have:
- a light
- a waterer
- a feeder
- roosting platforms/bars
- approriate venting
- nest box
- appropriate hen enrichments
- fencing dug a minimum of 18” into the ground to prevent predator access
- The hen coop must be at least 2 ft (0.6 m) from any fence (unless there are no eaves) and 3’4” (1 m) from the house.
- Must have an enclosure that would house hens with enough space (per hen) both inside and out.
- Hen enclosure needs to be roofed (both indoor and outdoor space).
Following site plan application, you will be contacted so that a peace officer can conduct a site inspection for application approval.
The site inspection will include:
- general back yard
- fenced in area where hens will be allowed to roam
- chicken coop inside and outside (If applicable)
Once approved, and you have paid your licence fee, you will receive you licence.
Urban hen licensing is regulated under part 4 of the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.
Licence or permit holders must:
- Have proof of ownership of the property where the livestock is kept (or proof of consent of the property’s owner).
- Have proof of completion of any training or mentoring.
- Keep all housing consistent with what was approved in the application for the licence (and in good repair).
- Not keep less than two or more than four hens without approval through licensing application.
- Not slaughter a hen or a pigeon within city limits.
- Must not sell or give away the licensed hen to another person without the approval.
- Must notify the City of Calgary if the hens are being relocated or moved and must agree to an inspection of any new location.
- Egg selling or distribution must adhere to municipal, provincial and federal legislation.
Urban hen licensing ensures proper housing and care conditions are met for hens, and that any neighbouring concerns are addressed. Report concerns or direct questions to 311.
To apply for an urban livestock licence, each hen keeper must complete an introductory urban hen keeping course, specific to local context. It is also recommended that each licensee have support and assistance from a recognized mentor for their first year of hen keeping, as well as an appointed veterinarian that can care for hens.
There are currently two approved training options for Calgarians wanting hens:
Hen safety concerns with avian influenza
Local urban hen keepers will have training on how to ensure biosecurity and what to do if a bird gets sick with avian influenza. This training is covered in the required hen-keeping course, as mandated through the licensing program. Avian flu does not typically occur in smaller hobby flocks, and the backyard hens will be limited to groups maximum of four per household. The Province of Alberta offers additional information on keeping small flocks safe, clinical signs and reporting.