The Reclucktant Activist

Paper at Breakfast


I became an activist yesterday.

I didn’t mean to.

I certainly didn’t plan it.

But nonetheless it happened. And yesterday everyone across the city woke up to this.  Me and my chicken on the front page of the paper in full colour.  Above the fold.  Clearly a slow news day.  Had there been a sale on at the local Giant Tiger or a cat stuck in a tree I’m sure my story would have been relegated to somewhere in the depths of the paper.

As some of you know, I have chickens.  As some of you know, whether this is legal or not in my municipality is questionable.  When I first got my 4 chickens I let all my neighbours know and got a feel for whether they were O.K. with it or not.  No one seemed to care and in fact as far as I could tell they were kind of excited about it.  So I kept the chickens and started building a coop.

I have to admit, even I had reservations about keeping chickens.  I really had no idea what to expect so I had the same concerns the people on city council probably have.  And I had these concerns because I was both misinformed and uneducated on the matter.  As the people on city council probably are.  Who can blame them?  They can’t know everything about everything, right?

The people who argue against having backyard chickens cite disease, noise, smell and general hell breaking loose if people are lawfully allowed to own chickens.  I would like to take this opportunity to address these points for the benefit of both city council and those who wonder about owning chickens themselves.


1.  Disease.

There are those who believe that backyard chickens are disease riddled incubators for Avian flu among other things.  In truth, (as far as I have researched) there has never been any cases of Avian flu among North American backyard chickens.  The Avian Flu rarely occurs, and when it does it shows up in either third world countries or most commonly chicken plants.   Chickens get Avian flu from coming into contact with other chickens or the feces of chickens with Avian flu.  In the case of third world countries, many people who own chickens feed their chickens scraps of raw chicken that are infected with the disease.  These chickens are then allowed to roam around the village infecting other chickens.  Since most backyard chicken farmers I know  neither feed their chickens raw, disease filled chicken meat, nor take them out for play dates with other chickens … I do not think the Avian flu is a threat to our community.  In fact, large groups of chickens together in poor conditions harbour the best breeding ground for Avian Flu.  So backyard chickens are actually the solution, not the problem.

Salmonella is another concern.  Very, very few backyard chickens carry salmonella.  It is extremely rare.  Even rarer is contracting salmonella from your chickens.  If you rub your hands in their poo and then put your fingers in your mouth before washing them there is a chance you’ll get salmonella.    If you eat unwashed fruits or vegetables, improperly prepared meat, own any kind of bird or reptile or eat a raw egg in any dressing, dessert or food … there is also a chance you’ll get salmonella.  In fact, there is a much greater chance you’ll get salmonella from any of these things.  If you’re still concerned, you could simply demand all backyard chickens be vaccinated for salmonella.  Yup.  There is such a thing and yup, it’s possible.

2.  Noise.

I would like to say chickens are silent and most have had their voice boxes removed at birth, but that isn’t the case.  They do make noise.  About the same noise as a few pigeons.  They cluck and make cooing sounds for a few minutes a day.  It’s inaudible unless you’re right beside the chickens.    Chickens have also been known to release a loud BUCKOCK when they’ve finished laying an egg.  They’re kindda proud.  If you can hear the sound of it over the trucks, Harley Davidsons, leaf blowers and barking dogs in my neighbourhood I’ll give you a free half dozen eggs.   Roosters on the other hand, are loud. They really do cock-a-doodle-do at dawn. And they continue it all day long.   I know this because one of the chickens I got turned out to be a Rooster.  After his first sunrise cock-a-doodle-do I got on Kijiji, put up an ad and had given him away to a nice farm in the country within 2 hours.  I believe it is best to ban Roosters in an urban setting.

3.  Smell.

Yeah my chickens smell.  They smell like chickens.  They don’t smell like a poultry farm because I only have 4 of them.  Basically they smell like a dirt road mixed with pine shavings.  Clearly not as appealing as dog crap on a damp day, but nice nonetheless.  If I were to own 20 or 30 chickens I’m sure there would be smell associated with them.  So I absolutely support a limit on the number of chickens allowed in an urban setting.  Many municipalities cite 6 as an acceptable number.  I would have to agree with this number as an appropriate number for an urban setting.

Finally I’d like to address a few points of concern that were made in my local paper.  One fellow was genuinely concerned that if backyard chickens were allowed, even in a limited number, all hell would break loose.  I mean, what if every person in a town got 4 chickens.  What then??  There would be mayhem!  Neighbourhoods would stink!  The disease!  The noise!!   To that I say, um … what if every person owned 4 dogs?

Cats, dogs, pigeons, and pigs.  They’re all allowed in the city of Hamilton, in unlimited numbers no less.  Just not chickens.  Not even one.  New York, Vancouver and London are just 3 of the cities that allow backyard chickens.  These are not hick towns, filled with people dropping from disease and tumbleweeds blowing down their streets.  They are progressive, world class, influential cities.

These cities have done what make sense.  What I propose should be done.   Allow residents to own backyard chickens in a limited number.  I love my chickens.  My neighbours love my chickens.  The only people who don’t love my chickens are the people who know nothing about my chickens.

I became an activist yesterday.

I didn’t mean to.

I certainly didn’t plan it.

But nonetheless it happened.



Excellent presentation for council in Springfield, Missouri where backyard chickens have proven to be a success.



If you live in Hamilton … please sign this petition to  help me keep my chickens.  


  1. Susan says:

    It’s always the same: People who do not have all the facts are the ones doing the complaining!
    Enjoy your chickens.

  2. Jules says:

    WELL SAID Karen! You go girl…! Give em hell!

  3. amy says:

    They allow pigs in unlimited numbers but not chickens in limited numbers? That seems crazy to me, but I might be biased because pigs give me nightmares. But anyway, I hope everything works out for you, good luck!

  4. Brittany says:

    We can have them in Baltimore (and in fact I do!) but only up to 4, no roosters, and you have to be licensed. We even offer free disease testing.

    Of course, we might not fall into the same thriving metropolis is category that you put the other cities into =D

  5. Sharmila says:

    Way to go Karen too bad I am not in your neighborhood. You have done a great job addressing all the aspects of the issue. I totally agree with you in every aspect… I hope your town will allow backyard chickens… so everyone can enjoy fresh eggs… Now about being an activist… that’s good thing…Let’s vote for backyard chickens! Finally I love the picture on the newspaper it looks very artsy…

  6. jane says:

    is that really what your breakfast looks like? its so civilized!

    • Karen says:

      Jane – Not in a million years. Well … sometimes on the weekend it looks like that. Anyhow, I set up the shot to create the feeling of people having breakfast and looking at the paper. I did end up eating the cereal and the toast though. Gave the chickens the leftover milk from the cereal. ~ karen!

  7. Lisa says:

    I live in a very rural area of NC. Just about everyone has a couple if not several chickens. Some of them run free and are beloved pets that have learned not to leave their yard.
    Is there a possibility that one of your larger poultry farms in the area could be supporting the ban for fear of losing money?
    BTW I just found your blog a few days ago, still reading back, but am really enjoying it!

  8. Thera says:

    I fully support you and hope they change the by-laws. I too, as I have said before, would love to have chickens, but they’re not allowed here either (another city in Ontario).

  9. Ann Roberts says:


    I feel so bad that you even have to deal with this. Your blog posts about building your coop was what got me connected with you. You have chickens out of love for them and to provide good clean healthy food for yourself.

    You have written an eloquent and well spoken piece here which should be sent to the editor of your local paper. And maybe a copy to the TV news people. Get them on your side, now.

    God bless you and the chickens and thank goodness I live where this is not an issue. BTW-when we were looking to buy a house 3 years ago, the most important thing I was looking for was a place with no restrictions against livestock. Even places that are quite rural can have them, you know.

    Good luck to you and the chickies….

  10. Angela N says:

    As someone that grew up in suburbia with chickens in the back yard(ones that would sit atop our fence until we got home from school), I just don’t see the issue. I could totally understand if you decided to start an egg business in your back yard and had rows and rows of chickens. But really???? What is the big deal???

  11. CBuffy says:

    Good for you Karen! The government doesn’t really need that much access to my backyard anyway. As long as it is a small flock (I agree with a limit of 6…) and no BOYS! (Boys. Ick. Ok, now I feel like a 6 year old setting the rules for our club…) Likely to result in healthier chickens AND people! Win. Win.

  12. Cindy Marlow says:

    Good job, you! If you are successful in your campaign (and even if you are not) I am jumping on the bandwagon and preparing information for my own tight-assed city council (did I just write that in a public forum?). My neighbor across the street owns 20 chickens and I’m not allowed to own any? Of course, she lives on 300 acres and I only have 1.22 but WTH? Where is the fairness in that? In the meantime, she shares so I have that. And a renewed desire to take on City Hall.

  13. Nicole says:

    Oh Karen, I support you a 100%! I hope they vote in favour. I have become quite fond of your chicken stories. One of them likes to cuddle? How cute is that! I didn’t know they had such character. I agree with you about dogs making more noise, there are quite a few neighbours who let their dogs bark and bark incessantly.

    Adele and Amy Winehouse, huh? Them chickens have good musical taste!

  14. Anita says:

    Oh I know I am going to get some nasty comments for this but, most childern’s daycare locations harbour more germs then any 4 chickens could. Has city hall ever been to a gas station restroom??? I apologize for offending anyone, but come on, get a grip.

  15. magali says:

    If they knew how many people were grossed out my the idea of your chicken’s fresh eggs, people wouldn’t be worried that everyone would get backyard chickens! Not to mention that the majority of people won’t be willing to spend four months building a coop or the money to buy one.

  16. Jen says:

    “The only people who don’t love my chickens are the people who know nothing about my chickens.” I love that line. So true.

    I propose a nice little Coop tour….with a little wreath on the front…Adele playing inside….and with something that looks like it belongs on the inside of House and Home….or at least a “Pimp My Coop” episode….I can’t see how they will ban chickens after that!

  17. Go Karen! I agree on every point – especially that well looked after chickens owned in small numbers are far better for everyone than factory chickens.

    As for what would happen if everyone owned four dogs… hmm, I might have to start campaigning to ban dogs around here.

  18. carol van beek says:

    I live in Los Angeles and chickens are allowed here. Six are supposed to be the limit, but how many are actually in someone’s backyard is anyone’s guess. There is even a business in my neighborhood called Urban Farmers that will custom build a chicken coop for you. Tell that to your city council people.

  19. marilyn says:

    you can do it!

  20. Amie says:

    They do eat their own poo though… the chickens, not your neighbors…

  21. Lori says:

    You go girl

  22. itchbay says:

    I’ve been on a chicken quest since we moved in here. I have the plans for building a coop and have even marked out the part of the yard where it will go. Maybe this winter, I’ll get down to the business of construction.

    Our town allows 3 hens, no roosters. Everyone tells me to get 4 anyway, since no one will be able to tell how many I have unless they look, and an even number will help prevent any pecking order issues.

  23. Tricia Rose says:

    Your Moment Has Come, you are a natural-born activist.

    Who wouldn’t BUCKOCK at a great achievement.

    Gabriel García Márquez said old women smelt like chickens too. This thought haunts my maturity.

  24. sofia says:

    Go you. Being an activist is a good thing.

    I am one.


  25. Marti says:

    Wow. The Art of Being an Activist. Well done.

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