Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • January 2021 • Circulation 5000

Is the City Chickening Out?

Responsible chicken ownership should be allowed.

Three of The Girls in their back yard. Jen Strohschein

Two years ago, our young family returned to Edmonton, after having lived on the west coast for some years. We had sold our dear old house in McCauley to friends when we left the city, and, amazingly, were able to buy it back from them upon our return. The transition was eased greatly by the adoption of four heritage hens into the family. They came to us, together with a swanky espresso machine, as part of the private re-purchase of the house.

We knew that there was a bylaw prohibiting chickens in this city, but felt that if we were responsible to both the hens and our neighbours, their benefits would far outweigh their liabilities. For the last two years, we have been learning to love and care for The Girls, and have become passionate advocates of urban chicken-keeping. Sadly, someone recently complained about them. An Animal Control officer came to our door and told us we need to find them a new home, or pay $500 per day per chicken to keep them past the deadline. Now that they are no longer a secret, we have a chance to speak up for our urban hens.

Here is what they have given us in return for a draft-free and well-bedded home, a roofed run, a bit of grain, and all the excess of house and garden. Eggs, of course. Orange-yolked, large, and healthier by far than factory-farmed eggs (1/3 less cholesterol, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, 7 times the beta carotene). At the height of summer, each chicken lays an egg every day, identifiable by colour and shape. Our children love to choose their favorite eggs. And, conveniently, The Girls lay these eggs without need of a noisy rooster.

Organic fertilizer. We bed our chickens with straw and dried leaves, and the combination of the high nitrogen chicken manure and high carbon leaves creates wonderful compost. We have three compost bins at the back of the yard, at different stages of completion, and are thus able to quickly process all the chicken bedding back into rich soil with a minimum of smell and mess.

Enjoyment. These Girls have personality. Each one is unique, and they often make us laugh with their antics. We have named them, of course. Blackie, Whitey, Greytie, and Goldie. For a while, they were instead John, Paul, George and Ringo. They draw the children into the back yard. Visitors, young and old, love them too. They have been picked up and hauled around since chick-hood, and are our pets just as much as a cat or dog.

We strongly believe that urban dwellers should have the right to responsibly keep chickens in their backyards. Not for agriculture, as such, but for sustainable, affordable, organic food. It is simple Home Economics. Backyard eggs and composted manure are worth their weight in gold. Chickens don’t bark, bite, jump over fences, and poop in other peoples’ yards. If the City can accommodate dogs and cats and create bylaws for their responsible management, surely it can also accommodate chickens. The refusal to do so is simply anti-rural, and such an illogical division of rural and urban is outdated and unhelpful. City of Edmonton, when you speak of greening the city, put your money where your mouth is and change this archaic bylaw. People of Edmonton, if you support the right to responsibly keep chickens, please phone or write your Councillor, the Mayor, and the incoming members of City Council. Let your voice be heard! Let the Birds be heard!

Follow this link to sign River City Chickens’ petition:

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