“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.”