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Jailbird: Edmonton man chooses to get locked up during fight to keep backyard chickens

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An animal lover in the Alberta capital has agreed to surrender his hens to authorities but only after spending three days in the slammer and several more in court.

"The judge says that they will seize my chickens and [they will] probably have a chicken soup on my behalf," a disappointed Ivan Dacko said Wednesday on his way out of Edmonton Law Courts.

"Today my chickens are one years old. Happy birthday to my ladies and it just happens to be International Woman's Day, so I believe they are kinda woman to the chicken population."

The half-dozen hens, for now still in his yard in east Edmonton, are unlicensed.

Dacko, a retired electrician, said he hatched the birds exactly one year ago.

He has a two-storey coop behind his house and says he's being environmentally friendly by collecting eggs, feeding the chickens table scraps and spreading the manure in his garden.

He applied to become part of the city's urban hens program shortly after getting them but his application was denied. Dacko was later fined $500 after refusing to give the birds away.

Ivan Dacko shows his backyard chicken coop to CTV News Edmonton on March 8, 2023. (Darcy Seaton/CTV News Edmonton)

Dacko decided not to pay or hire a lawyer, and was sentenced to time in the Edmonton Remand Centre.

He said his protest was good fun for accused murderers, drug dealers and speeders.

"They ask me what is my charge and I said, 'Six chickens I have in my backyard,' and they had a good laugh for the whole day," he recalled.

He also admits to sending "upset" messages to city officials questioning their professionalism.

"We had a hearing about a week ago. The judge was very narrow minded. [He ruled that] I don’t have a license and they are allowed to remove my chickens," Dacko explained.

It’s not the first time he’s paid heavily for interacting with animals and butting heads with authorities in the process.

He and his wife were fined $3,000 each for riding their bikes amongst bighorn sheep in Banff National Park in 2016.

Dacko, who actually submitted photos to the court of himself in the act, maintained they did nothing wrong and promised to do it again.

In this supplied photo, Ivan Dacko (blue jacket) can be seen riding his bike in Banff National Park in June, 2016. Supplied.

Wednesday's ruling gives him 10 days to find the hens a new home or the city will pluck them from his property.

He's giving up in this game of chicken, but didn't promise not to do it again.

"I’m very disappointed, but I will obey with their order," Dacko said.

"Maybe rabbits or quails will be the next one. Or maybe pigeons, I don't know what really bothers them."

Dacko's neighbours, meanwhile, have complained numerous times about odours and submitted videos of chickens leaving his property, a city spokesperson told CTV News Edmonton.

His initial application was also incomplete, she stated.

"Animal control officers have made numerous attempts to gain compliance from Mr. Dacko since last April however he has remained unwilling to comply," Chrystal Coleman wrote in a statement.

"Given the history of non-compliance, statements of intent not to comply with the bylaw in the future and concerns regarding the health and safety of the chickens, the city refused Mr. Dacko’s application."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's David Ewasuk

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