Friday, 3 February 2012

The Chicken Keepers: Rogue Egg Eaters


Growing up on the farm I raised chickens to make the money needed to pay for my winter after-school activity of figure skating. I raised 300 chickens at a time. Yep, 300. I was a kid raising 300 chickens. Successfully. Sure, I hated having to find someone (a sibling) to do my chores when I went to a sleep-over, but I did it and without any major communicable disease outbreaks or serious public health concerns.

This week I received an urgent message from a friend (who must remain anonymous because the chicken police are out) asking if I could take her chickens. 3 chickens. 3 lovely, living, breathing egg-layers. The City of Toronto, in it's infinite wisdom, has decided that even thinking about discussing a potential study into urban chickens needs to be deferred indefinitely. The result is the continued enforcement of the anti-chicken bylaws when there is a complaint (although it certainly feels like a post-vote crack down).

Chickens are lovely creatures. They eat slugs, poop nitrogen on our gardens and provide eggs free of charge. All we have to do is keep out the coyotes and raccoons, provide a snug coop and hide them from the bylaw officers. They are the perfect circular economy. Energy In = Energy Out.

And (!) chickens are friendly pets. Much less social and environmental harm goes into buying a chicken than a budgie or a cockatoo. Chickens like people (especially people with food) and will ride around on your shoulder. I had two pet chickens growing up (in addition to the 300) named Bonnie and Clyde. They lived in our wee chicken barn, however I also knew a womyn who had a pet chicken named Liberty who lived in the house. Lovely bird, Liberty was.  Did you know that you can put a chicken to sleep by tucking its head under its wing and rocking it gently? It's true. I've done it.

Want to teach your children about responsibility, caring for living creatures and the cycle of life? Get them chickens. Christmas next year could be much more interesting with a couple of fluffy chicks to feed.

I think urban chickens are a logical, sensible, reasonable and responsible no-brainer. Thankfully the urban farm and locoavore movements that support urban chicken keeping are not going anywhere. What really needs to shift is the City of Toronto's backwater ideas about our omelet partners. The chickens are here to stay.

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