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“It’s the most com­plained about an­i­mal on Toronto’s pro­hib­ited an­i­mals list for smell and noise, at­tract­ing rac­coons and ro­dents.” Bel­beck strongly dis­agrees. “One of the con­cerns that has been raised are mice and rats; they’re al­ready there. If you’re care­ful about how you’re stor­ing your feed and how you’re feed­ing them, [the hens,] you can help to min­i­mize those is­sues.”

And noise? Toronto Chick­ens founder said bark­ing dogs are far of­ten more of a cause of noise com­plaints than her chick­ens ever could be. Mi­hevc said a Ni­a­gara neigh­bour­hood al­low­ing back­yard hens had 500 dog com­plaints last year com­pared to 10 for chick­ens.

An­i­mal Al­liance of Canada has op­posed the pilot project. Di­rec­tor Liz White said the project “reeks of dis­pos­abil­ity,” from lack of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion to short-term rentals.

“When the egg-lay­ing years de­crease after 18 months, peo­ple gen­er­ally don’t want the birds after [that],” White said. “What do they do with them? Do they turn them in? Do they let them out? Do they slaugh­ter them in their own back­yards even though it’s not al­lowed? We know this hap­pens be­cause we get com­plaints.”

Bel­beck said she takes back hens that aren’t adopted after her com­pany’s rental pe­riod, to live out their days on her farm.

But White balks at the tran­sient nature of the city’s pilot project.

“How does it teach kids any re­spon­si­bil­ity for what is a liv­ing, sen­tient be­ing when you don’t want it any­more?” White said.

An­other con­cern is avian-re­lated dis­eases, in­clud­ing sal­mo­nella. Toronto Pub­lic Health spokesper­son Dr. Michael Finkel­stein said that, al­though he is not aware of any lo­cal dis­ease out­breaks re­lated to back­yard chick­ens or other live­stock, there is currently an on­go­ing sal­mo­nella out­break linked to con­tact or ex­po­sure to back­yard chick­ens in the United States.

Still, Finkel­stein agreed that hand-wash­ing and keep­ing the ar­eas clean would mit­i­gate any pos­si­bil­ity of ill­nesses spread­ing.

Bussin said he didn’t re­ceive any com­plaints from the neigh­bours be­side him but did re­ceive one from an ad­ja­cent lot be­hind his prop­erty.

“We all have to be good neigh­bours,” said Bussin, who dili­gently cleaned his coop ev­ery day. “You have to be mind­ful of how your an­i­mals are go­ing to in­ter­act with the neigh­bour­hood.… It was def­i­nitely a worth­while ex­pe­ri­ence, but I wouldn’t want any­one to do it with their eyes closed.”

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