Chickens Photo by Gayla Trail

I often dream of hens clucking around in a small garden pecking at bugs and laying fresh, organic eggs but alas that is not going to happen living in the cold, white north with no backyard or shelter against raccoons and minus will-it-never-end winters. And seriously, that was an actual question. Will winter never end? I see photos online of people working outside in tank tops and flip flops. Dangling their springy, warm weather like an evil, tortuous carrot. We’re still wearing layers and big jackets over here people! Local weather reports keep reminding me that it is unseasonably cold. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I like to hear. That and the words “possible flurries.” But I digress (a lot). I found the book “Keep Chickens!” by Barbara Kilarski at Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon and while I can not provide a full review it looked like a very thorough introduction and resource to urban chicken-keeping.

The ultra modern, ultra stylish, and ultra expensive Eglu is not helping to curb the fantasy one bit. It’s like an imac for chickens!

Over the long weekend we happened upon an open garage door while walking through a Toronto alley. Two large bird coops lined the side walls. So strong is my chicken-keeping itch that it took me half a minute to clue in that those were not chickens cooing back at me but fancy pigeons. After five years, I think I’ve finally solved the mystery of turkey pigeon!

Urban Chicken Keeping Resources

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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17 thoughts on “Chickens!

  1. OH DEAR! I thought I had gotten over my farm days, but you have reawakened my desire for chickens and farm fresh eggs. Eglu eh? Ever neat. I wonder if its legal to keep chickens in my town? Hmmmmmmmmm… see what you’ve done! LOL

  2. Gayla, I’ve never been able to find the answer to this question:
    Is it legal for us to keep chickens in Toronto?

    Also, good news: The weather reports for Friday are saying 10*C. I might be able to leave the touque at home at that temperature!

  3. I kept a chicken in a small city as a kid without finding out whether it was legal. You won’t get in any trouble as long as you don’t have any complaints, and you won’t get complaints about a hen or two if you’re properly taking care of them (fenced in, clean living area, etc). The neighbours loved her rather than complaining.

    As for winter, what we did was provided space in our (windowed) basement and let her outside when she felt like it. Indoors we had a perch/nest area with plenty of straw. I took a few big flower pots and filled them with dirt, sprinkling fresh birdseed on top every day. She loved digging in the pots and “foraging” the way she would outside in the summer. I think it really helped keep her from getting bored since most of the time it was too cold for her outside.

  4. Waiting for the forecasted wintery storm here in Toronto, I just ‘splurged’ on the June (go figure) edition of Fine Gardening and happened upon an article about guinea hens. Not terribly detailed but entices me nonetheless. Seems easier than chickens, good for the garden, and they are cartoonishly cute! Dunno about the eggs though.

  5. Move to Vancouver.. it’s been spring here for a while now!!

    I want silkie chickens. They are so soft…

  6. Vancouver has all that pesky rain and greyness unfortunately. We have to suffer through winter but the summer is so nice and hot and fantastic.

    Jakkyblue: I believe I have had guinea fowl eggs but I can’t recall the difference… I used to get them from my local market but the farmer stopped selling them.

    Nanaimo: That sounds great. Sadly I do not have a basement either.

  7. When I was young, my mom and I rescued a small black chicken who was standing on the side of a country road near our home. We suspected that she had fallen off a chicken truck and was just having a snack in the ditch while she waited for a ride home. We called her Hennie Pennie(naturally), kept her in our yard in the summner, brought her in in the winter and fed her oatmeal.

  8. I too have an odd itch to own chickens. There’s actually a guy on the next block who has a few. This summer I think we’ll wander over and do a video on them.

    We probably could keep chickens in our yard/basement in the winter, but I worry that it’s really more just the exotic allure of owning city chickens and after a while it would be too much work. Fresh organic eggs though, hmmmm.

  9. Lorika, believe me when I say that one or two chickens are so little work that you probably won’t notice. They’re far easier to care for than say, a dog or cat since once you provide the basics they don’t need walking or much extra attention (though I bet like me you’d find yourself wanting to give them extra attention).

    And on the plus side, they’re practically living composters! They need a good variety of food and will take care of a surprising amount of veggie scraps, etc. along with their daily supply of mixed grains.

  10. I have been begging my boyfriend daily for chickens ever since I went on a local city tour of backyard chickens last year. It’s legal in my city and I have 1/2 an acre, why not? The dog and cat would love it, right?

    Check out the ad for the tour here:

  11. In Vancouver proper, the bylaw states that up to 6 birds can be kept on a regular city lot. But as someone said already, if nobody complains then you can get away with more (nice neighbours help). Check your city hall’s bylaws for the rules.
    I want chickens but my neighbour would not approve.

  12. I LOVE my backyard chickens. Just love em. Love the site you listed too. Sigh. Nice to see another chicken fancier. I’m so hooked. we keep em in a portable pen (aka chicken tractor) and move em around each day to mess on the lawn and scratch at it and eat bugs. Most of all though, i just love watching them be chickens. HOWEVER – we just bought a silkie hen from a citydweller who kept her in a little hutch like a rabbit as a pet. Very gentle bird – wonderful pet! Might think about that option….

  13. Yay Chickens! I want some too, but alas, I live in an apartment and i don’t think my landlord would be ‘down’ with a chicken house in the tiny back yard. Some day tho…
    I loved doing yardwork for my ex’s parents, they live on a small farm in Alsea, OR, I could toss all my yard clippings in the pen and they would gobble them up!! And man were those eggs yummers!

  14. I am heartbroken!

    I just checked the Toronto Municipal Code and chickens are not permitted in this city. Any bird within the Galliformes order, in fact.

    My dream of owning chickens will have to wait until I move out of the city!

  15. Too bad but I didn’t have any plans with the whole no backyard issue. I have definitely seen a chicken coop or two in this city so someone isn’t following the laws.

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