Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In a Flap Over Backyard Chickens

I've had a bad case of "chicken envy" for quite a while, as I have quite a few friends scattered all over North America who keep their own chickens (and just love to post about their fresh eggs on Facebook!). While more and more cities and towns are allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards, in my city (Hamilton, Ontario) it's currently illegal to do so. There is a big brouhaha currently going on as the pro-chicken contingent has dug in their heels to help try and get legislation passed to allow backyard chicken keeping here. Up until just a couple of weeks ago, our city council had adamantly refused to examine this issue at all. Thanks to a big push by our local pro-chicken group, the issue went on the table again and our councillors voted (by a narrow margin) in favour of doing more research on this topic. So we have opened a window of possibility to hopefully gain the right to keep our own chickens.

I have to wonder, as one of my more rural-living friends put it, "why is everyone so scared of a couple of chickens"? Certainly there is a lot of evidence to say that chickens pose less problems than cats and dogs, which no one gets all bent out of shape about. And if backyard chickens are not causing problems in a huge city like New York (where they are legal), then I hardly think they should be a problem anywhere else.

I believe that the benefits of urban chickens (fresh, local eggs from lovingly kept and properly fed chickens, my own personal "bug patrol" for keeping invasive insects out of my veggie garden, and the great learning experience this would be for my kids) far outweigh any small drawbacks. It's frustrating to be told you're not allowed to do something that is legal in many other places just because a few close-minded people can't bother to better inform themselves about its potential risks and benefits.

If you happen to be a local reader and are in support of the right to keep backyard chickens (even if you don't intend to keep any yourself), there are a few things you can do to help make this a reality here in our city:

Go sign this petition to the Hamilton City Council asking for the right to keep backyard chickens within city limits

Join the Urban Chickens-Hamilton, ON Facebook group where you can connect with others in support of this issue.

Write your city councillor to let him or her know you are in support of backyard chickens (if you follow the link, click on the "info" button and you'll be taken to a page where you can click to get contact information for all the city councillors). The councillors opposing backyard chickens are saying their residents have no interest in keeping them - let's prove them wrong!

Are backyard chickens allowed in your city or town? Do you have any tips for mounting a successful campaign to legalize them?

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