Contraband Chickens Invade Canada

Photo by Baugher Webmaster Services-FlickrCC

By Sarah Elton
The Atlantic

From the street, the large gray house, with its wide driveway, landscaped garden, and grand front door, looked like every other home in the upscale 1950s Toronto development. Around back it was a different story. Behind a knee-high, plastic orange fence was an unusual sight: two chickens pecked at the grass while a third broody one sat on a nest.

It’s illegal to keep chickens in Toronto.  Their owner, a middle-aged woman who wore jeans and funky glasses when I visited, agreed to have me over after several months of communication and wouldn’t give her name for fear of being caught by city officials. This woman, who goes by the handle “Toronto Chicken,” is part of an underground movement of otherwise law-abiding Canadians who are breaking the law to raise their own hens.

Most Canadian municipalities don’t allow poultry within city limits. Livestock of all sizes was banned in the decades after World War II, and chickens have long been absent from the urban landscape. But now that the backyard hen phenomenon has crept north, people are willing to risk fines and possible poultry confiscation for the pleasure of collecting their own eggs.

The contraband chicken keepers I’ve spoken with come from all different backgrounds: they are university students, stay-at-home moms, professionals. A woman named Heather Havens, who has taught courses on raising backyard hens, used to keep two chickens in a hen house with an adjacent run she built with her husband in the yard of their home in Surrey, British Columbia. (She recently moved to Portland, Oregon, where her birds are legal.) While Surrey does permit fowl if the homeowner’s lot spans at least an acre, hers was not big enough—and, thus, her chickens verboten.

Read full post at The Atlantic

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