Today the city of Toronto’s councillors unanimously voted down the chance for backyard chicken producers to debate the issue of legally producing eggs. I am of two minds about this decision. I have met a few of the people in Toronto who are illegally keeping hens already within the city limits, both in person and through this blog. I have yet to meet anyone who I think is doing a less than stellar job in looking after their hens, and they ALL care deeply about the welfare and well-being of their hens.
That being said, I understand why the city is hesitant to get involved in the chicken debate. Remember, the bylaws are not really meant for the people who are currently looking after hens….it is to prevent people who start this venture on a whim. If you are motivated enough to skirt the laws to have your hens, you will be motivated to research how to do it, and to give the birds what they need.
It’s the “Christmas puppy” syndrome that the laws are meant to guard against…..”hey Martha, the news says we can have chickens in our backyard….could save a couple bucks a week….lets grab some and toss ’em out back, it will be fun!”. These are the folks that will cause odor, noise, pollution and health problems….all of which are risks if the venture is not done well.
The councillors did not seem to “get it”. Some of the comments about keeping chickens being “ridiculous”, and that if people wanted a farm experience, they should go to a farm, just showed that they did not appreciate the reasons that backyarders have for keeping hens. There are reasons that henners are willing to go out of their way to build coops, clean up manure, go out of their way to secure good feed, and spend money and time looking after their feathered friends. It’s more than the couple of dollars a week you save in eggs.
I guess I’m disappointed that the city wouldn’t take the initiative to make a good law that would allow interested people to keep hens in a healthy, humane way. On the other hand, I’m glad that the city didn’t decide to put together a half-way, slipshod bylaw that would have put human and bird health and welfare at risk.
To all the backyarders in Toronto, I would just like to reiterate….the lack of support should not be seen as a criticism of your committment or care….the issue that council faces is bigger than that, and has to be applicable to people less diligent and conscientious than you are…at least the ones I know.
Also…the issue has been put off…not killed…the door is still open a crack, and if you can find a way to make council’s job easy enough, maybe they will re-open the file. Good Luck.
Mike the Chicken Vet