Fines for problem chickens

Stettler County defeated a proposed urban chicken bylaw at their Sept. 9 regular meeting. ECA Review/Coralee Ventnor
Written by Stu Salkeld

The County of Stettler is playing chicken with some Hamlet of Gadsby property owners over problematic fowl. The decision to issue fines for urban chickens violating the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) rather than seeking a court order was made at the Feb. 23 Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) meeting.

County GIS Coordinator Rich Fitzgerald presented councillors with a report about public complaints over the ubiquitous urban chickens dating back several years. 

“Several complaints have been received about chickens on a property located at Lots 11 and 12 Block 4 Plan 153Z in the Hamlet of Gadsby,” stated the agenda memo. “This issue dates back several years to when Gadsby was still a village.”

Fitzgerald explained Stettler County then began handling the village’s planning services and staff worked with the property owner to resolve the situation, but found there was a problem with the village’s bylaw. 

“The decision was made to do enforcement on the property, and it was at this time that during the legal proceedings to get the court order, it was discovered that the necessary minutes from the Gadsby council meeting to prove that the bylaw had in fact been adopted, were missing,” stated the memo. 

“This made it impossible at the time to do any further enforcement or follow through on the fines that had been issued.”

Fitzgerald went on to explain that the village was eventually dissolved and became a Stettler County hamlet while complaints about the chickens in question continued. Fitzgerald explained the county’s hamlets don’t allow chickens.

“A stop order was issued via registered mail on Jan. 7, 2022 with no response from the landowner,” stated Fitzgerald, and a copy of the stop order was included in the agenda with the aforementioned property identified along with property owners Kim Cooper and Jim Macdonald. 

Staff recommended the board pass a resolution authorizing Stettler County to seek legal authority to remove the chickens in question.

Nibourg was hesitant to do so, and asked if the county had fined the property owners. Fitzgerald responded the property owners had only been fined under the previous village bylaw and the property owners never paid the fine. Fitzgerald added staff felt because the issue had been going on for years and the property owners didn’t pay the previous fines, more fines wouldn’t be successful.

Nibourg stated he foresaw publicity problems if the county goes after the fowl. 

“This is a tough situation,” said Nibourg. “Then what do we do with the chickens? Do we put the chickens down?” Nibourg noted he felt more fines should be issued and consider a court order as the last resort.

Reeve Larry Clarke stated that as long as the LUB states chickens aren’t allowed in hamlets, the county has to enforce that rule and added that someone could be found to adopt the chickens.

Coun. Justin Stevens asked how long this has been going on and staff answered Stettler County has been dealing with it for at least two years.

Nibourg stated if the fines and issued and not paid again, at least the county has that on the books if the chickens eventually have to be seized.

The board members eventually voted 4 to 3 for Stettler County to issue more fines to the Gadsby property owners in question over their chickens, Couns. Stulberg, Paul Mackay, Nibourg and Ernie Gendre in favour, with Clarke, Stevens and Dave Grover opposed.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.