HATCH­ING A PLAN

Res­i­dents liv­ing in Ward 21, St. Paul’s will be al­lowed to keep up to four chick­ens on their prop­erty for the next three years by Marika Washchyshyn

Bayview Post - - Contents -

Some lo­cal ’hoods now al­lowed to keep chick­ens

On Oct. 2, Toronto City Coun­cil ap­proved a pilot project, 23 votes to 14, that will al­low res­i­dents in se­lect wards to both own and raise back­yard hens.

St. Paul’s will be one of the four wards (along with Eto­bi­cokeLakeshore, Park­dale–High Park and Beaches–East York) to par­tic­i­pate in the pilot project for a pe­riod of up to three years, with a re­view after 18 months.

Those liv­ing in res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties with suf­fi­cient out­door space will be able to keep and raise up to four hens on their prop­erty. Roost­ers are not al­lowed, eggs can’t be sold for profit, and on-site slaugh­ter is strictly pro­hib­ited.

The pilot project is a big win for ur­ban agri­cul­ture sup­port­ers who have twice be­fore tried to lobby the city to re­move chick­ens from the city’s pro­hib­ited an­i­mals list, in 2011 and 2013. Ward 21 coun­cil­lor Joe Mi­hevc is one such pro­po­nent and plans to keep chick­ens of his own.

“I have grand­kids, and they are ex­cited about it,” Mi­hevc said. “To take them in the back­yard, show them how [eggs] are laid … they’re go­ing to get close to them as pets and see the cir­cle of life. I want to teach them good an­i­mal hus­bandry and use it … to build com­mu­nity.”

Back­yard hens, al­though tech­ni­cally vi­o­lat­ing by­laws, have been a part of the GTA’s fab­ric for some time. A For­est Hill res­i­dent and the founder of Toronto Chick­ens, who wishes to re­main anony­mous, has been keep­ing hens since 2007 as an ed­u­ca­tional tool for her chil­dren. She said she currently keeps three chick­ens and one turkey on her prop­erty. She said she’s shocked it has taken a grow­ing city like Toronto so long to adapt and thinks the pilot pro­gram will be a low-risk way to test chang­ing the by­law on back­yard hens in the fu­ture.

“By De­cem­ber 2008, I thought the by­law would have been changed,” she said. “[Some] 4,000 sig­na­tures later on a pe­ti­tion, at least we’re do­ing a pilot project.”

By her mea­sure, there are many ben­e­fits to rais­ing chick­ens, not the least be­ing nu­tri­tion. She’s pre­vi­ously sent her eggs to labs for test­ing, and com­pared to fac­to­ry­farmed eggs, hers have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased nu­tri­tional value.

“They have two-thirds more vi­ta­min A, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vi­ta­min E, seven times more beta ker­atin and four times more vi­ta­min D,” she said.

En­gle­mount Av­enue and Lawrence Av­enue West area res­i­dent Jamie Bussin kept hens this sum­mer, after the is­sue was brought back to city coun­cil in May, try­ing it out for his own jour­nal­ism piece. Al­though he, his wife and kids en­joyed the fresh eggs their four hens pro­duced reg­u­larly, the com­bi­na­tion of Toronto’s win­ter weather and the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity halted their ex­per­i­ment.

“[Chick­ens] can’t stay out­side when it goes to freez­ing, so you would need to win­ter­ize,” he said. “And it’s not eco­nom­i­cal [to rent]. If you bought the birds, maybe.”

Rent The Chicken is a rental com­pany that’s ex­cited about the pilot. Kate Bel­beck sup­plies the GTA with hens from her farm in Mof­fat, Ont., and pro­vides coops, feed, dishes, treats, ref­er­ence books and support for the du­ra­tion of the rental. Al­though the city hasn’t ap­proached her yet, she is hope­ful a part­ner­ship can be forged.

“That’s where our pro­gram fits in nicely be­cause it’s de­signed to be tem­po­rary if it needs to be,” Bel­beck said. “It’s a good way to start be­cause you do have support … and you can test what works for you and what doesn’t. You have an easy way to chicken out if it doesn’t work for you — no pun in­tended.”

But crit­ics of the project say noise, smell and po­ten­tial health is­sues are rea­sons why coun­cil should have voted against it. Coun­cil­lor Jaye Robin­son of Ward 25, Don Val­ley, spoke out against the pilot ahead of the vote.

“We should not be en­ter­tain­ing this for a sec­ond,” Robin­son said.

Clockwise from left: The founder of Toronto Chick­ens stands with one of her hens in the back­yard of her For­est Hill home; the en­clo­sure she keeps her chick­ens in; Kate Bel­beck with the hens and sup­plies she rents to res­i­dents in the GTA

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