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.

 

Sources:

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

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:y6ooYeQTBdsJ:poultrykeeper.com/chickens/health/the-chicken-vet-talks-about-salmonella-in-backyard-chickens.html+how+many+chickens+carry+salmonella%3F&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&client=safari

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/15/12/pdfs/09-0643.pdf

 

Footnote:

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

112 Comments

  1. Miranda says:

    Karen,

    What was the final outcome for you?

    I was just hit with a “Curtesy Notice of Code Violation” enforcement letter on Saturday. It has me crazed! Our whole county can have hens except for my little beach town. The verbiage on our town ordinance says the following:

    It shall be unlawful for any person to keep any animals, fowl or reptiles within the limits of the city with the exception of household pets.

    (b) It shall be a violation of this Code for any person to permit such household pets to run at large at any time.

    So they sent me a 8×11 photo of my house from a new dock that was installed at least 80+ yards across the water from my home. It’s blurry but you can see my 5 ladies walking across my back yard. Apparently the inspector was there to sign off on the final inspection of my neighbors new dock, looked across the water & saw the ladies.

    The warning was:

    “ KEEPING CHICKENS IN THE WATERFRONT YARD”

    Now, this is my backyard. I choose not to have a fence across my sea wall as I live here specifically to be on the water, etc.. My sides are fenced in. We aren’t allowed fences across our front yards. The hens do not go in my front yard at all. They have never been outside of my yard & only cross the backyard because it seems they like whatever bugs my other fence has by it.

    I’m afraid to call & question them because I don’t want code enforcement showing up. I have 15 days to “correct the violation”

    My hens are obviously our pets, we love them. Our dog even loves them. My neighbors love them. I’m afraid they will say fowl isn’t a pet, it’s fowl & we have to get rid of them.

    It’s come up at city council meetings back around your time & one of the votes stated that if they allowed hens, the run off from their poo will pollute our waterways. :/ That’s the most absurd comment ever.

    Any suggestions?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Miranda. Sorry about what’s happening to you! Nothing has yet happened with my town’s chicken situation. They have twice voted not to even look at considering allowing chickens. I have a friend in another city who was forced to rehome her chickens after finding herself in a situation similar to yours. She goes to visit them regularly and spends a lot of her time inundating the local council with information to offset their misconceptions about chickens. She also created an online petition and did a few newspaper interviews. I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you other than feeling out what your community support is and then if it’s good, fighting the council with facts. Good luck! ~ karen

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  3. Nicole says:

    Pigs smell, I have worked in the neighbors pig barn, it can get nasty. If pigeons are ok, how about smaller chickens?? What is the difference.

  4. Nicole says:

    I seen your article and I know about the rules in Hamilton/Dundas. Dogs and cats are cleaner??
    I have 7 chickens, no rooster, they are quiet, there is no smell, they are perfect pets, with the added bonus of eggs. What is the green bin for anyways, its for compost, perfect for chicken waste.
    Council needs to worry about other things.
    Pigs? You can keep pigs? Who knew.

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Yup. Pigs. I have a hunch the rules are going to change. If they don’t … council had better watch out. :) ~ karen

  5. Sylvia says:

    We have the same uneducated council here in Windsor, Ontario. They won’t even discuss the issue regardless of the amount of people who turn out and their education, including a well know doctor with facts on the side of chickens. I plan to go ahead anyway for many reasons but mostly for my health. I have two autoimmune diseases and parkinson’s disease, no way do I want to eat chicken prison eggs and I feel I have the right to produce my own food just like I do with all my fruit and vegetables. The best part is chickens are wonderful as pets too. There are a number of people with chickens in Windsor but they are so quiet, the neighbours do not even know. I hoped to get help building a coop last summer but it will be 2012 no matter what. I’ve decided to get help from students looking to do their volunteer hours required for high school graduation in Ontario. Perhaps I can help educate in the process. Looking forward to reading more about your chicken journey.

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