Mid­town ur­ban farm­ers fo­cus on bees and chick­ens

North Toronto Post - - News - — An­drea Yu

Some un­ex­pected crea­tures will be get­ting com­fort­able in back­yards across North Toronto this spring as more res­i­dents choose to raise chick­ens, quail and bees in the city de­spite by­laws that pre­vent them from do­ing so.

Chicken farmer Kate Bel­beck be­gan her se­cond year de­liv­er­ing hens to Toronto homes this April.

For $500 to $600, Bel­beck will rent two or four hens from her ru­ral Mil­ton farm along with a coop and enough feed for the sea­son.

“Two hens will give be­tween eight and 14 eggs in a week,” she ex­plained. Bel­beck es­ti­mated that she’ll be de­liv­er­ing close to 100 hens this sea­son, which is al­most dou­ble her de­liv­ery size last year.

Tom Nolan, pres­i­dent of the Ur­ban Toronto Bee­keep­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, at­tested to the grow­ing in­ter­est in city bee­keep­ing since he started the as­so­ci­a­tion three years ago.

“Ev­ery month, we have new peo­ple com­ing to our meet­ings that are think­ing about get­ting into bee­keep­ing,” ex­plained Nolan, who said that his last meet­ing drew a record num­ber of at­ten­dees at 62.

How­ever, the City of Toronto pro­hibits the keep­ing of chick­ens, and the On­tario Bee­keep­ing Act re­quires hives to be 30 me­tres from prop­erty lines.

“We do skirt around the by­laws,” Bel­beck ad­mit­ted. “The by­laws in the city are com­plaint based, so there’s not a by­law of­fi­cer walk­ing up and down the street look­ing for chick­ens.”

How­ever, last year, one ren­ter did have prob­lems when an an­gry neigh­bour filed a com­plaint to the city. In that case, Bel­beck was forced to pick the hens up early.

Mean­while, some lo­cals are find­ing cre­ative ways around the by­law. Wy­ch­wood res­i­dent Larissa Kucharyshyn has been keep­ing four Co­turnix quail in her one-bed­room apart­ment since Fe­bru­ary. Quail are not pro­hib­ited un­der the an­i­mal by­law. Ac­cord­ing to Kucharyshyn, they pro­duce flavour­ful eggs and re­quire less space than chick­ens.

“It’s made me much more thought­ful about where my food comes from,” she said.

In 2012, coun­cil­lor Joe Mi­hevc put for­ward a mo­tion to re­move the ban on chick­ens, but it was de­ferred when the city’s Li­cens­ing and Stan­dards Com­mit­tee voted against it. “If the is­sue were to come up, I would be one to sup­port back­yard hens in a lim­ited amount and a very con­trolled environment,” said Mi­hevc.

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