Calgary woman hopes to register chickens as emotional support animals

For Nikki Pike, nothing calms her down like her three chickens.

The Calgary woman, who has a chicken coop in her backyard, has applied to register her three hens — Nugget, Nibble and Noodle — as emotional support animals, according to a Canadian Press story.

Pike said she was sexually abused as a child and she has struggled with depression and anxiety since. Her chickens help her find peace.

“When I’m holding them, I’m feeling, I’m smelling, I’m hearing,” she told the Canadian Press. “What calms me down is all of those sensory aspects of being with them.”

The city investigated her chicken coop in 2017 after someone complained about the presence of the birds in her backyard. Worried she was going to lose her feathered friends, Pike called for city council to make changes to its bylaws to allow farm animals when they are emotional support animals.

Last year, the City of Calgary passed amendments to its Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw to allow residents to keep a “livestock emotional support animal” on their property once they obtain an application permit. The city launched its new program in March, which sets out what residents must do to apply to register their pets as emotional support animals.

One of the requirements to apply for such a permit is a letter from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, stating the livestock is required as part of treating a mental health condition.

Applicants must also submit the contact information of a licensed veterinarian that can provide specialized care for the animals. The city also must be satisfied that the animal has adequate space.

Aalika Kohli, a business and policy analyst for the city, told the Canadian Press that she expects five to 10 people will apply for a permit per year, and that most of the applications will be for pot-bellied pigs, chickens and miniature horses.

She said larger animals are unlikely to have enough space.

The only other municipality that had a similar program in the province was Strathmore, Alta. In 2014, a Strathmore family fought to keep a pot-bellied pig in their home, to help with a young girl’s nightmares.