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Petition for Backyard Chickens

Posted by Joshua / July 14, 2008

Backyard Chickens in TorontoThe allure of fresh eggs daily and natural pest control is too much for some Toronto locavores, and despite the city's prohibition, some residents are quietly keeping chickens in their backyard. One midtown woman, we'll call her Toronto Chicken, has started an online petition to change that bylaw.

Toronto Chicken is not alone, in Toronto and elsewhere. As eating local food becomes more and more popular, urban dwellers are increasingly looking to their governments to loosen regulations regarding backyard non-commercial livestock.

Although the annonymous chicken keeper has quietly kept her birds for a year, she feel like it is time to go public and change the bylaws, making her chickens - Clucky, Sally and Hybie - legal residents of Toronto.

Backyard Fresh Chicken Eggs
With the increased attention to and popularity of eating local food, and a dearth of backyard gardening resources, websites such as Backyard Chickens and The City Chicken have cropped up to satisfy those who want more than tomatoes from their yard.

Each year only a few complaints are received about neighbourhood chickens, suggesting that either not many people are keeping chickens, not many people mind that their neighbours are keeping chickens, or the $240 fine is a sufficient deterrent.

For Toronto Chicken, she unknowingly became an outlaw last July when she brought home her hens from an Orangeville farm that had slated them for food. The 1999 bylaw prohibiting certain animals in the city doesn't specifically mention chickens, but they fall under the Galliformes category.

Now, for this anonymous chicken keeper, the quest to legally keep her chickens - and continue collecting their eggs (a food item she hasn't had to buy in over a year) - has resulted in a website and petition as she bides her time until she's ready to make herself known. So far she's collected 342 signatures of support.

Toronto Chickens Feeding

Although I don't have the backyard right now, I'd enjoy keeping chickens one day. My wife's Italian grandmother used to have one and she wishes she still did, as her garden always flourished with the extra feet and beak to control pests and a tasty egg each day. As Waterloo, Halifax and other cities around North America are reviewing their bylaws regarding chickens, it seems time for Toronto to do the same.

Toronto Backyard Chickens

Photos courtesy of Toronto Chicken.



jack / July 14, 2008 at 04:24 pm
great, bring on H5N1
khalid / July 14, 2008 at 04:34 pm
oh no. what about going to high park to get that nostalgic dose of nature
Toronto Bureaucracy Ltd. / July 14, 2008 at 04:43 pm
Will they be tagged? Licensed? Vaccinated? Will there be an issue with hygiene? public health? Land value? Noise?

We need to do a study! We need to charge fees!
Adam L. / July 14, 2008 at 04:45 pm
Seinfeld - The Voice

Kramer: I know it sounds pretty glamorous, but it's business as usual at Kramerica.

Dean Jones: As far as I can tell your entire enterprise is more than a solitary man with a messy apartment which may or may not contain a chicken.
min 12:45;q=the+voice+seinfeld&ei=vLp7SNvvNoWU-AG_nKGGCw&hl=en
Sean Galbraith / July 14, 2008 at 04:55 pm
I'm curious how she keeps them from waking up the neighbourhood every dawn
jamesmallon / July 14, 2008 at 04:59 pm
Sean, it's only the roosters that make the noise. That said, roosters should be banned in the city, but I could care less about the hens. I had an apartment in a Japanese city of 200 000, and my neighbour kept a rooster. Nothing like getting woken up by an idiot bird at 4:30 with a beer/whiskey/sake hangover. Don't know how I restrained myself from making capon-soup for three years.
satan / July 14, 2008 at 05:00 pm
just don't eat eggs, and then you don't need chickens running around.. unless she's slaughtering them regularly for meat.
I understand the "eat local" thing, but this takes it a bit far.
person man / July 14, 2008 at 05:18 pm
TBL: Yes we do, because yes, those are the issues.

Anyone here ever been to (or rather downwind from) a chicken farm? I remeber in the real 1970s they sold live birds in Kensington and it was quaint and all, but downtown livestock was banned for a reason.
Ryan LaFlamme / July 14, 2008 at 05:28 pm
Hmmm, I'm conflicted on this one. I'd love to see more people using local in every way, but a city just isn't the ideal place for livestock. Interesting idea though. Go veg!
guy lafleur / July 14, 2008 at 05:54 pm
I'm still a bit shocked that people eat breakfast.

On this topic, does anyone know how I can grow nutri-grain bars?
Maria / July 14, 2008 at 06:59 pm
This is just becoming more and more like Mexico City, where no one respects any law. There is a reason (most) laws exist in the first place.
W. K. Lis / July 14, 2008 at 07:15 pm
With the price of food going up, why not?
Ryan L. / July 14, 2008 at 09:51 pm
The price of grain is what is going up, which in turn increases the price on meat. You still have to feed these chickens with the more expensive grains, so I don't see how farming your own chickens suddenly became worthwhile with the recent food price jump.
Jerrold / July 14, 2008 at 10:17 pm
Let the city dwellers have chickens!
Ellen Field / July 14, 2008 at 10:18 pm
I totally support this petition. With rising transportation costs and GHG emissions, urban societies need to become more self-sufficient and integrate food systems. A single egg-laying hen costs under $5 and will give an egg a day for two years before slaughtered. For those who eat eggs, having one or two chickens in the backyard could greatly help reduce an individual's carbon footprint, improve soil in the backyard, provide free composting services by eating uncooked veggie kitchen scraps, and not support factory-farming. Have you had an organic egg lately?
Totally not comparable.
kettunainen / July 14, 2008 at 11:22 pm
I support the petition as well, and I'm vegan. It's a great way for city-dwellers to become more self-sufficient, and this is becoming increasingly necessary. Someday, I'd like to have a yard with a pygmy goat to help provide compost for my garden. It's really important to be able to become more self-reliant with peak oil on the horizon, and this petition is exactly what is needed in times like these. It disturbs me how many people just aren't getting it.
Christopher King / July 15, 2008 at 08:54 am
Beats owning a pigeon coop.
Denise / July 15, 2008 at 09:04 am
I completely support the petition. My neighbor has 3 chickens, and they are clean and quiet.

and Ryan L. chickens shouldn't be eating expensive grains... they eat grass and bugs and kitchen scraps.

that we feed chickens grain is part of the problem with the food industry. it just fattens them quickly for slaughter.

We need to bring our food closer to home. Period.

Ellen and Kettunainen, Hear Hear!
Jorge / July 15, 2008 at 09:38 am
My parents had a chicken in their east Scarborough backyard for about 2 years and one day the city came and told them they had to get rid of it. They complied and they haven't had anymore since but it was there for 2 years and almost every single day produced a beautiful tasty organic egg, the yoke so orange and delicious not at all like store bought eggs. In the winter my dad would take it to the basement and leave it a cage on extremely cold days. It was a great thing to visit and be able to grab those amazingly fresh eggs.
It was a quiet animal and was cared for so that there was no smell even in the summer. Its possible to have 1-2 chickens in your backyard and as long as you take care of its spot to be very clean and useful.
RBeezy / July 15, 2008 at 11:25 am
I'm all for chickens in the backyard.

My cats are supportive too...
sanjay / July 15, 2008 at 11:41 am
i'm happy my neighbours don't have chickens

Birdflu / July 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm
Anyone recall the birdflu that's currently sweeping through Asia in various forms, waves? We do need to think about raising poultry in the city. Tasty eggs or not.
Gin / July 15, 2008 at 01:06 pm
I can't believe it's illegal to keep chickens...some allege that we need to regulate because we all share space...true, but sensible regulations. Like, we can keep dogs, but not too many dogs, and they SHOULD be relatively quiet. Chickens are smaller than dogs, just put a quantity limit that ensure they wont' be more of a nuisance, and they should make better neighbours as dogs because their chirps aren't as loud as neglect induced barking.

I have to wonder though, tee hee, if the neighbours of those currently illegally harbouring chickens, get any hush eggs.
Denise / July 15, 2008 at 01:40 pm
Birdflu affects flocks of birds, chickens raised in our backyards aren't around those flocks.

for that reason alone, we should all raise chickens.

they aren't dirty, and they are cleaner and quieter than Pigeons, which are legal to have in big numbers.

it isn't for everyone, clearly, but why not for those who want them?
Linda in Chicago / July 15, 2008 at 03:04 pm
I know Toronto did have to deal with bird flu, but realize that allowing residents to keep chickens doesn't introduce more problems. Bird flu has been an issue in large factory farms, not in small backyard flocks. <a href="";><;/a>

Chickens are legal in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and countless other North American cities. Like any other pet or companion animal, they need proper care, housing, and food. In the case of chickens, this is as easy -- or easier -- than raising a cat. They don't need fancy housing and they enjoy eating weeds, common insects, and scraps from the kitchen. They don't produce any special odors, you just have to clean up after them like you do for a cat or dog. I have one cat, 2 dogs, and 3 hens. The hens are by far the easiest to care for.
Stephanie / July 15, 2008 at 03:34 pm
And chickens are grosser than cats and dogs how? I have more trouble from the local cats mucking around in my yard than I can imagine ever having from a few chickens in a backyard.
lathamb / July 15, 2008 at 04:20 pm
Seriously. I bet they shit and make less noise than my neighbours stupid fucking SMELLY dog.

I'm all for chickens in the backyard as long as their's a limit.

I get fresh eggs from my aunt and there is no comparison.

I'm getting a chicken. Fuck yer dogs and cats!
Jason / July 16, 2008 at 09:50 am
Don't hens need the (crowing at the crack of dawn) rooster to produce eggs -- or is that just a rural myth?
Joshua / July 16, 2008 at 10:22 am
@Jason: Hens produce (edible) eggs on their own; the rooster is necessary for fertilization. Chickens are like people that way. :)
Zach / July 16, 2008 at 06:05 pm
Think of all the money you'll save by not having to buy pesticides to kill bugs if you have a hen or two kicking around. :)

As a rural Ontario 20 something, I think it's great to see some people keeping chickens. My great grandma came to Toronto in 1921 and she always kept a chicken around to keep pests down, eggs, and yummy chicken soups.
Mike Dudek / July 17, 2008 at 01:52 pm
Having tasted the difference between a fresh egg and one bought from the store, even the free range variety, I would love to support the idea of chickens in the city. However, all I can picture in my mind are the hilarious Tati antics this would cause. These kinds of privileges don't align with metropolitan life, I think it's sad but true. Sad because the concern people share in their comments I think comes from a lack of trust in being able to sustain lifestyles like this, and that shows that we have really lost the kind of relationship we should have with our food.

P.S. I wonder if the idea mentioned above, about designated restaurants and markets raising hens, is a valid compromise?
carm / July 23, 2008 at 10:40 pm
I live in the city of Niagara Falls and we are allowed up to 10 hens but no roosters. I currently have 8 hens. Kids love the chickens and weeding the vegetable garden always yields fresh greens for them. Hens are quiet and interesting animals to complement a back garden.
laurel / July 24, 2008 at 01:26 pm
i think it's a great idea! i never thought of keeping a chicken before. can they protect themselves from outdoor cats? and what happens in the winter?
carm / July 24, 2008 at 09:24 pm
Just like dogs, chickens need some sort of shelter summer and winter. Most predators - coons,possums etc hunt at night - just lock birds in coop at night and open in morning. You can get fancy or keep it simple. A google search can show you what others use and you can build a coop quite easily. In winter keep a lightbulb on in coop so hens keep laying as light stimulates laying hormone.
Catawba ConvertiCoops / July 29, 2008 at 09:33 pm
For those interested in building their own coops, I have developed a set of plans based on a popular European design that area easy to build and use off-the-shelf lumber from your local home improvement center with little use of tools. You can check them out at - Dave
shan / October 4, 2008 at 03:05 am
I would really like to keep few chicken in my backyard, althought I am living in Pickering, I want to buy some chicken next summer. It doesn,t matter if it's legal or illegal. I don,t give a shit about it
shan / October 4, 2008 at 03:07 am
This is the way of future,so all people support Toronto chicken with he quest. GO for Toronto chicken. You are on the right path.
Binaatthelake / November 30, 2008 at 09:59 pm
My family and I are also looking at becoming more selfsuficientish and chickens or possibly ducks do figure into that equation. In my particular location I may end up in just heaps of trouble but on the other hand why am I not able to grow food for my family on the property that I own. I am allowed to grow fruit and vegetables but the line is drawn at protein, why is that? Well cared for animals are an integral part of organic permaculture for their composting ability, the fact that most backyard fowl are great at nibbling away at pests in the garden, they provide hours of entertainment, and as a bonus they will feed our families. Why is something as basic as growing my own food illegal? I know that I live in a small city in the typical suburban neighbourhood not a farm it's not like I want a flock of sheep in the garage. I just want to grow some fruit, and vegies and have a few eggs for breakfast and baking. Why does that make me at best a revolutionary and at worst a criminal. Good luck Toronto you are blazing a trail that others wish to know what they are eating is wholesome and safe.
derek replying to a comment from Binaatthelake / March 15, 2009 at 07:16 pm
I live in Etobicoke and I like to buy baby chickens for eggs.Where is the nearest farm or the market.
tara meedy replying to a comment from jack / April 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm
Hello,I keep two hens in my back garden.I live in a terrace house and its quite overlooked,the rules are that you have to keep them 100ft away from neighbours,but ive chanced it ,hoping nobody complains.They are really good laying between 1or2 eggs a day each,they do make noise,but only in short bursts, which constantly worries me,but I dont understand why people are so offended by it,theres seagulls making a hell of a noise around here.With the recession they should leave people alone,Luckily I own my place so Ive slightly more rights.
jay replying to a comment from tara meedy / April 6, 2009 at 09:07 pm
Hello, I would love to have a couple of chicken for the purpose of eggs, where can i get them?
Susan replying to a comment from jay / April 25, 2009 at 12:00 am
I am excited to buy a couple of chickens as well. I have been buying organic eggs for some time and it is expensive. If I find some info. on where to buy them I will let you know Jay.
Good for you Tara! you are brave, with neighbors close by. Never mind seagulls, what about dogs, cats, animals that have been domesticated and pooh all over the place. I love animals but some of the comments about the smell or livestock in the city is inaccurate.
I hope the petition helps to pass the bill so it can become a reality. Considering our current economic dilemma and disconnection from nature, it would be the best thing for Toronto!!!
maddiethunderclap replying to a comment from Ryan L. / September 10, 2009 at 08:04 am
i agreethat feed can be expensive. i keep chickens but we are fortunate to let them free range. the cost of feed in a more confined area outweighs the savings and impact on the environment. however if someone wants organic eggs free of growth hormones and antibiotics then its worth it. up until we got our chooks we spent £80 a month on eggs!!
Pat / December 30, 2009 at 11:01 pm
I just returned to Toronto after having lived for 3 years in the Catskill Mountains where I kept chickens. They're wonderful! And I discovered that their eggs beat anything you can get in the grocery store, including free range organic eggs. They're delicious, orange-colored yolks and lower in cholesterol. Chickens are easy to care for, amusing to watch, a very rewarding animal. I intend to keep more of them -- and in the city.
rachat credit / October 24, 2010 at 01:46 pm
I have the same opinion with most of your points, but a few need to be discussed further, I will hold a small talk with my buddies and maybe I will look for you some suggestion shortly.

- Henry
justme replying to a comment from Sean Galbraith / December 15, 2010 at 11:37 pm
That would be a problem IF they were ROOSTERS but! they are hens you know the ones that are physically capable of laying eggs, females.....anyways...

GO Chicken Lady GO!!
julia contes / July 8, 2011 at 03:48 pm
I live in a trailer court in the middle of town and my neighbor who is 40 feet away didn't even know I had 6 hens for over two years.

You don't need a rooster to get eggs from hens. Chickens don't smell if you only have a few of them. I would much rather my neighbors have chickens than yappy dogs that never shut up.
Ummulbaneen / September 22, 2012 at 06:53 pm
Go Chicken Lady!

Here are a few points to ponder:

1- disease:
Ckn- salmonella that can cause diarrhea
Dogs- rabies cause death
Cats- ticks cause blood issues

2- feces
Ckn-gr8 source of compost/fertilizer
Pets- harvest parasites

3- smell
Ckn- if u don't clean regularly, yes
Pets- if u don't clean regularly, YES

4- garden
Ckn- natural insect repellent
Pets- natural diggers

5- vaccination
Ckn- don't need to, life span avg 2 yrs
Pets- yes, lifespan 20-40yrs

6- noise
Ckn- hens not really
Pets- barking dogs=annoying and scary

7- food
Ckn- eggs and meat
Pets- feed THEM eggs and meat

8- multiculturalism
Ckn- common pet of the East
Pets- common pets of the West

It's all perception of this idea. We have begun to be overly 'etiquette' and try hard to be like the ''masses'.
Other Cities: Montreal