I doubt I would be overjoyed by a chicken coop on the balcony right above mine, but it might be nice to have a supply of fresh eggs in the neighbourhood.
An organization called CLUCK Ottawa (that’s Canadians Liberating Urban Chickens Klub) is lobbying for an amendment to bylaws to permit backyard chicken coops in the city.
The idea of raising urban chickens might initially seem a bit eccentric, but it’s catching on. The City of Vancouver is in the process of passing a bylaw allowing residents to keep up to four chickens, and urban coops are already legal in Brampton, Guelph and Niagara Falls.
Many people who are serious about their food can see the attraction in a DIY source of cheap, healthy, local eggs, and city dwellers could probably benefit from a little more self-sufficiency in the food department.
Last year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation issued a report on the surprisingly large discrepancies in the cost of healthy foods in grocery stores across Canada, which could in some places put them out of the reach of the poor.
Their basket of heart-smart groceries cost $225.07 in Ottawa, the second-highest total in Ontario, beating out major urban areas and isolated northern towns. Only Dryden, at $240.70, offered a worse deal.
Cost aside, the health risks resulting in part from a food industry that sometimes seems to see its customers as the undiscriminating maw at the end of their conveyor belts appear endless.
Whether it’s the steady spread of obesity, occasional system breakdowns like listeriosis outbreaks, or recent reports from the World Society for the Protection of Animals about livestock arriving at Canadian slaughterhouses diseased or dead, we are given more reason to question just what we’re putting in our mouths.
Still, there are caveats. The Ottawa Humane Society expresses concern about the welfare of the chickens themselves. If urban coops prove to be a fad, they’re going to have to deal with abandoned chickens.
Some Ottawa residents worry about the noise and mess resulting from these chicken coops, and a thriving rat population feeding on them. These are entirely proper things to fret about. Of course, we’d need regulations. There are rules for everything in the city.
Roosters, whose noise would rival the idiot braying of car alarms as weapons-grade urban noise pollution, are not permitted under the proposed Vancouver bylaw, which also spells out owners’ responsibilities for providing healthy conditions, taking precautions against predators, proper waste disposal, and on and on.
Properly handled, a little chicken isn’t going to make the sky fall.
Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; firstname.lastname@example.org.