The other night I attended the first public meeting for a group known as CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub) who have the cute catch phrase “Get a hen in 2010” and want Ottawa to legalize backyard chickens.

My main reason for attending was to find out a little bit about the concerns people have with raising chickens in their backyard. There are some ideas I commit to emotionally and instantly and this is one of them. I was on board from the second they said “Fresh eggs, zero food miles”. But taking the steps to re-legalize urban chickens is not one that should be taken lightly, there are many out there who have valid concerns. This meeting was in part to address those concerns and in part to drum up some new volunteers for the CLUCK initiative.

In short here is what CLUCK is proposing:

A change to Ottawa bylaw 2003-77  which will allow 2-4 hens per urban lot. Specifics on coop construction, bird care, bird end of life care and education will all be addressed in the revised by law. There was talk of a permit system by which those who want hens would have to take a course on their proper care and talk of a pilot project which is oh so Ottawa.

Some of the benefits to raising birds in your backyard are:
– Birds reduce waste as they eat up to 7lbs of food scraps per month
– Zero food miles for the eggs you receive
– Chicken waste makes great fertilizer, or can be composted
– Creates local sustainability
– Gives children the opportunity to learn about their food in their own back yard

Not to mention that the birds are healthier than factory farm birds thus produce healthier eggs. Take a look at my prior article on free run here.

Most of the concerns about having chickens back in urban areas will be addressed through bylaw and education, such as worries over predators and pests, avian flu, chicken care, waste and end of life care. But there are still some serious areas that need to be researched before this proposal can go through including how much will it cost to put systems in place that ensure chicken safety and who will pay for this? And why were chickens banned from urban environments in the first place? **a move that most agree began in the 1980s**

With time questions such as these will be researched and addressed so that the proposed changes can be put in front of our councilors at City Hall. CLUCK and this initiative are still only in their infancy but have role models in bigger cities from which to learn.

I’m still very much for the idea of keeping egg laying chickens in your back yard, but more than ever I want to be sure that we are putting procedure in place that ensures that those who wish to keep chickens will be doing so in a proper, safe and humane way. If you agree, feel free to sign the petition here.

** Couple of interesting chicken facts **

1. There are specific breeds of heritage chickens bread to withstand Canadian winters

2. Many say that the move to ban chickens from an urban setting was an anti-immigration move because at the time it was mostly immigrant communities keeping the hens in an urban setting

3. In Europe having chickens in ones backyard is still very common place, though yard sizes are smaller than most of us have today. In fact, in an effort to cut down on the cost of garbage pick up, there is a town in Belgium that will give any family living there 2 free chickens as long as they commit to keeping the birds at least 2 years and feeding them all the families table scraps.

For more information on CLUCK visit their website by clicking here.