Imagine the day when you no longer need to rely on petro-chemical fertilizers to kill the pests attacking your prized eggplants. Or the morning when your omelet comes straight from the pecking creatures in your backyard.
Urban chicken farming might still seem like a fairytale — but it’s one that locavores have for years been urging the Toronto government to look into allowing. Under current City of Toronto by-laws, privately raising any galliformes — chickens, pheasants, turkeys and the like — in urban areas is prohibited. This wasn’t always the case: urban chicken farming was legal in Toronto until 1983, when it was banned due to health concerns.
Yet many are debating such concerns. A representative (who wishes to keep her name confidential) from Toronto Chickens, an organization lobbying for legalization, is one of them. “Chickens do not pose any health risk that I am aware of. They need to be looked after just like any pets. Proper coop, food, water, waste disposal. Backyard chickens are the answer, not the problem, with respect to the spread of bird flu. There is little opportunity for the virus to mutate and spread in a small backyard flock, as opposed to factory-farmed chickens.”
The common misconception that urban chicken farming is unhealthy, she argues, is one of the main barriers to having the practice legalized. “It shows how far removed we are from our food source.… Having backyard chickens in cities enables us to control the quality of our food — eggs that are antibiotics free! — and most importantly, allows for the humane treatment of the animals providing us with our food.”
Although urban chicken farming has yet to be legalized in Toronto, some people, including the folks at Toronto Chickens and Trinity Reach Farm, have managed to go under the radar in setting up co-op hen houses. Have there been any complaints? Not so much. Just like with any pet, keeping chickens breeds a sense of community, as passersby attracted by the Trinity Reach sign flock to examine the strange creatures within this household in Little Italy.
**As of 2017 chickens are now permitted in 4 Toronto neighbourhoods.