Assorted and Sundry for 08/05/02

  • Toronto Backyard Chickens Petition – Long-term readers of the site will know I have a fixation with chickens. Keeping chickens is pretty high up on my life to-do list but there are several key issues currently blocking this life goal. 1. I don’t have a backyard nor do I have a warm place to house chickens throughout the long, cold, winter. 2. Keeping chickens is illegal in Toronto. By signing this petition at least one of these impediments might be eliminated.
  • Boss of You – No, it’s not about gardening but this new book about the ins and outs of women running their own businesses, co-written by You Grow Girl contributor Emira Mears is certainly one I can relate to and something I could likely use.
  • 2008 Cherry Blossom Timelapse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Being there in person to see the blooming cherry trees is an item on my life to-do lists.
  • Lynda Barry’s “What It Is – It must be book release week because I’ve been eyeing several new books on Amazon and have already pre-ordered this one about writing, creativity, and self-expression. Nope, this book’s not about gardening either but it is the newest creation by my favourite artist and writer Lynda Barry, who also happens to be a gardener with a keen interest in the mysteries of the plant world. This excerpt from the book had me in tears.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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15 thoughts on “Assorted and Sundry for 08/05/02

  1. I’m planning on giving myself pair of bantam layers next year for my 30th birthday. I wish I couls sign the backyard chickens petition but I’m sure you have to actually be a Toronto resident. I’ve never even been to Canada!

  2. I don’t know if anyone else just had this problem, but when I clicked on your links in this article, my virus scan detected a virus. Don’t know if it’s related or not, but just thought I should say something.

  3. I read the petition but couldn’t sign it. While I support raising chickens for eggs in theory, I don’t support raising chickens for slaughter and the petition is pretty vague…

    How many chickens per household/area? What type of built enclosures/winter-proofing would people need to abide by? Feed? Roosters? What about if you own other animals (there are already by-laws in place limiting the number of pets per household)? And, could you kill a hen to eat?

    While I think the majority of people participating in this forum are thoughtful, well-meaning people, I don’t know about all of my neighbours. Personally, I think animal cruelty laws need to be more strictly enforced (with harsher penalties) before we start letting urban dwellers (with no hen rearing experience) experiment.

    This article in New York magazine, about a guy who tried to turn his Brooklyn backyard into a working farm, is terrifying.

  4. Be warned you really don’t want chickens legalized in a city environment-we have 5 acres and we had chickens(just 6 of them) for one summer-the smell is unbelievable! Even on 5 acres with chickens pretty far from the house the smell was unbearable-I can’t imagine it in close quarters and with people who might not clean up after them the way they should. We gave our chickens to a friend with more land and he gives us eggs when we need them-a much better deal!!

  5. Jessica: Which links? There are nine in this post.

    Arza: You bring up a lot of good points. I am not unsupportive of raising chickens for slaughter but I am unsure about whether that is something we should be doing in such close quarters. I agree that there would need to be guidelines within any legalization law that outlines how many chickens people keep, the kinds they keep (no roosters is a pretty common rule), and how they keep them.

    Lots of city do legalize keeping backyard chickens including several outside Toronto. The reality is that most people don’t although on my trips to Portland and Austin I discovered that there is quite a community of chicken-keepers there. They are even allowed dwarf goats in Austin!

    MaryW: Yes chicken poo is rather unpleasant.

  6. Gayla- well,I thought it was the link that said “this excerpt.” However, I tried it again today, and nothing bad happened. So, turns out the problem came from somewhere else. Sorry to freak anyone out-

    Thanks for such a wonderful haven here, Gayla. Superb work! Bravo! Thanks for all the heartfelt inspiration.

  7. Viva chickens!!! I live in Austin and have 5 chickens in my backyard. I don’t have any smelly problems – I think that being nicely militant about cleaning their coop out really stops that problem. I have lots of great chicken poop to put in my compost pile, and this year I put all the chicken-compost down on the veggie patch and everything is doing great because of it. There is a large community of city chicken husbandrists here – there was a non-scientific study done a few months ago by a friend of a friend who is an archivist at UT to see the chicken population density of Austin vs. other cities and we were pretty high. I totally support cities allowing chickens. They are great pets, they produce food, they are relatively quiet and they require very little to maintain. My 5 ladies live in a simple coop that I built and painted purple with a tin roof, under a Redbud tree, in the back corner of our backyard in about a yard about 15 x 15 feet. They are so happy and we are happy with them. I wish I could sign your petition!!! With our qualms over food supplies looming on our horizon, it’s time for cities to make moves to allow us again to raise our own food. Chickens are part of that. I love them, and you will too when you get them. And when Toronto changes their laws!!! Happy chicken fever….:)

  8. I would be interested to know what the parameters of the law are.

    1. You could keep Bantams. These are chickens who are about 1.4 the size of a regular chicken. Almost all breeds come in bantams.

    2. Noisy cockerals. You dont have to have a rooster for hens to lay. In fact I have read that hens lay better without one because roosters can be abusive and stressful for hens.

    3. Chickens can be trained to poop in litter boxes. I have run across websites about pet chickens. If waste management is an issue, then its something that can be addressed.

    4. Consider getting a mutual friend to let you keep some birds on their property if nothing else works. At least you can have access to the guano for gardening, have fun feeding them, even borrowing them for a couple hours to scratch on your roof before returning them to the safety of their regular home.

    You could keep them indoors in small numbers as chicks with nothing more than saw dust, a 75 watt lightbulb in a utility outlet, and a 14 gal alunimum bin {bought at ranch supply places}.

    When they get larger and can hop out, you will need a coop for them, but while you have them, the noise they make is like squeek toys, they are cute, and you can keep the litter with chicken poop in your compost as you change it out.

    The problem with laws is that they are usually made to fix a problem with nuissance neighbors who walk all over the rights of others by being inconsiderate in the very least.

    I would be intersted to know what prompted the law in the first place. Was there a case? A health issue?

  9. We had three chickens in our backyard in Brisbane, Australia. I loved it! We had so many eggs we gave them away all the time. The girls would also eat ALL our food scraps, and the poop was super for the garden. Many, many people have chickens in Brissy, it is common place. No smell issues, and the only problem we ever had was they got out once and headed over to our neighboors who was apparently phobically terrified of chickens. She was trapped in her house all day because the three of them were pecking around her car. We had no idea. They didnt get out again after that.
    I think that with parameters chickens in Toronto would be just fine – the same parameters that protect all domestic animals (although I agree, punishment for cruely should be MUCH harsher).

  10. Many do not seem to understand that we are legislated to death when it comes to most forms of agribusiness yet I don’t see that the big cities are slowing down in their consumption of very many things. If anything there seems to be a cry for us to produce more with stricter regulations. I could go on…but alas my point.. if the average household was responsible for just a small amount of what the consume we would see many changes for the better, you should be able to have your eggs and chickens too!

  11. Glad to hear good things from those who keep hens… Just wondering what people in colder climes than Austin or Brisbane do in the winter (Toronto is fairly mild for Canada, but there are weeks when it will get down to -20 or -30 celsius). I’m thinking about those living on narrow urban lots (especially those without a coach house or garage). Do coops need electric heating? Insulation?? How does it work?

  12. Hi Arza – my family live in central Maine where the temps get low like the ones you are talking about. They have a coop built out of plywood with a pine roof. There are nesting boxes lined with straw for all chickens, and they line the floor in winter with pine shavings. They keep a heating lamp in there for light and heat but also have an oil heater in there. The only problem that has ever happened is that once the heater fell over and the smoke killed all the birds!!! As long as you can get the temperature above freezing, they will be fine. They keep themselves warm by huddling. Have fun!!! Chickens are great….

  13. Chickens are legal in most of the urban and suburban municipalities in my area (Greater Victoria). In fact, our neighbour has three and gave us some of her eggs just yesterday. However, roosters are not permitted in residential areas. Despite this, my neighbour says her hens lay roughly four eggs a day.

    I think most of the concern about urban chicken keeping stems from fears of rodent infestations.

  14. everybody’s correct, but the laws are in place to protect the animals…kitchens, litterboxes, lightbulbs, no! I have 100 hens on 6 acres, it’s work, vet bills, heat ($$$), health issues, and yes RAT poison. Whether it’s one or ten, water, feed, clean-up at least twice daily is a minimum requirement. I have rescued (or sometimes just had people drop them in) over 20 birds from places where they didn’t belong or people had no idea that the cute little chick in the easter basket would be a 10-12yr commitment.

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