Calgary Takes Chicken Owner to Court


An intrepid urban chicken fan has taken on more than Calgary’s city hall. He has taken on Canada’s commitment to the right to food.

Paul Hughes is a veteran and single father who lives on a disability pension. He sees raising chickens as a constitutional right. So in 2009 he called city hall to report an illegal chicken coop. The coop was his.

He was acting in solidarity with a Calgary woman who had been fined for keeping three chickens in her backyard. Hughes considered the city’s ban on urban chickens a violation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination…

Hughes insisted Calgary’s bylaw was unconstitutional because some Canadian cities allow urban chickens. He also asserted Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was at issue:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Next: The City Moves Against Hughes

The city gave Hughes two warnings and then served him with notice of a bylaw infraction. The founder of CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub), refused to budge. On March 2, 2010, he told The Calgary Journal, “As an urban farmer feeding my child I’m considered an outlaw and a criminal by my city, and that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Four months later the city upped the ante and issued Hughes a court summons. By that time the city had turned down a proposal from its bylaw department to try a poultry pilot project that could be monitored and assessed before becoming city wide. Hughes told The Calgary Sun he was planning to ignore the $200 fine and take his case to court.

He had a chance to do that this spring. Provincial court judge Catherine Skene heard the case and told Hughes she would give her decision in September. People in Canadian cities with bans against urban hens will be watching the decision to see if it moves their cause forward or sets it back.

During the years this case has been simmering, dozens of municipalities around North America have approved bylaws that allow backyard hens (not roosters). Others have turned down similar proposals.

The arguments pro and con include food security, animal welfare, predators, noise and sanitation, but that is a story for the next post.


Related Care2 Stories

Urban Chickens Moving from Barnyards to Your Backyard

Urban Farmer Told to Shut Down or Face Legal Action

Urban Businesses Cater to Growing Crop of City Farmers


Photo credits: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

Unless those chickens are being raised purely for their eggs, let him rot in prison. I have no sympathy for any backyard (or factory) animal killers.

Carole H.
Carole H5 years ago

As long as there are also by-laws that cover the well being of the chickens and the conditions they are kept in I think it is a great idea. Obviously if some are kept in unhygenic conditions or crowded conditions these particular ones should not be allowed but that is something that the safeguard by-laws, as I said, should be able to deal with.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Debra Sherwood
Debra meade6 years ago

I would not want my neighbour to have chickens.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

So Calgary bans chickens but approves of horse-killing/maiming chuckwagon races . . .

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda6 years ago

Chickens require care and proper housing, otherwise they may cause health issues due to attracting mice and rats if their feed is not secured from rodents and also the excreta of the chickens may cause allergies and infections if cleanliness is not maintained. For these reasons, especially in crowded neighborhoods, a lot of municipalities ban the keeping of chickens.

diana malko
diana malko6 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago


Laura D.
Laura D6 years ago

@Anita--well considering that bird droppings incorporate the feces (the dark matter), urates (the white part), and urine (which is clear and not to readily visible unless there is polyuria), I'm not sure how one would make too much of a distinction. It all comes out the bird's cloaca in one clump (same place as the eggs!). Chicken farmers aren't going to collect the guano and separate it into its component parts The whole bird dropping will smell just from the urine/urates portion.

I really see no issue with urban chickens provided that the poultry owners will keep the coops clean daily. Really, how is it any different than insuring you keep your dog clean? Also, a few hens are one thing, but roosters and their crowing is another.