Another harebrained scheme, you say? Chicken-brained, maybe.

by DaniGirl on February 27, 2009 · 19 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Life, the Universe and Everything

So you know what I’d like to do? Not today, not this year, but maybe once the boys get a little older and I have a bit of free time on my hands again?

Raise a couple of chickens in the back yard.

(waits patiently for gales of laughter to subside)

No, really! Back at the end of December, I read an article in the Citizen about the urban chicken movement, and I was intrigued. According to what I’ve read, the chickens are reasonably low maintenance, actually good for your back yard, and two hens will produce eight to ten fresh eggs a week. How cool is that? Educationally amazing for the boys, healthy for us, good for the environment, minimal effort on my part — I love the idea.

I know my mother is rolling around on the floor laughing as she’s reading about this, and Beloved – who to his credit has gone along with just about all of my schemes and capers with nary a whimper of complaint – has flat out refused to even talk about this. He hates chickens, except when they’re on the barbecue with a good coating of tandoori marinade. I admit, I’m a little creeped out by them myself. But if they were our chickens, that would be different, right?

This blog about urban chickens gives an idea of the amount of work involved:

  • Everyday: fill the food bowl, change the water, check for eggs, add wood chips to the nesting box if needed. (takes 5 minutes)
  • Twice weekly: empty the droppings out of the Eglu, very easy to do by design, thanks Omlet! (takes two minutes)
  • Weekly: clean the Eglu by rinsing and scrubbing the interior parts (20 minutes)
  • Semi-monthly: purchase 50-lb bag of layena crumbles at the feed store (cost is $12 and is worked in with other errands)

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? (An Eglu is a chicken coop specifically designed for urban chickens. A lot more aesthetically pleasing than your standard chicken-wire and wood coop, no?)

My only concern would be the Ottawa winters. Not chicken-friendly. Not only is it bloody cold for a bloody long time, the last time I checked there was about a foot of snow in the back yard (not to mention, erm, about three months worth of dog poop.) And even if by some stretch of the imagination I was able to convince Beloved to let me keep a couple of chickens in the back yard, there is no way on gods’ green earth that he’d let me overwinter them in the house or even the garage.

(Not to mention the tiny but insistent voice in my head that keeps yammering on about the poor, hapless house plants I bring home from the grocery store in a fit of enthusiasm every five or six months, only to neglect into withered brown stumps within a couple of weeks.)

What do you think? Excellent idea or pure folly? Would you do it?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julie February 27, 2009 at 9:07 am

I’ve seen it done in Australia. But Canada? Yeah, pure folly.

2 Kathleen February 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

Sure, Canada. The lower mainland and Vancouver Island. In BC. Still part of Canada, albeit reluctantly, last I checked.
But Ottawa? You better be willing to heat them, eat them every fall, or share quarters.
Good luck with that.

3 Loukia February 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

Oh… not for me, thanks! But I did live in Greece when I was a child and visiting Greece every couple of years, I’m around chickens a lot since some family members have a chicken farm and goats, etc… they kinda scare me actually..

4 Sharon February 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

OH DANI! I’m sorry but I can’t see you doing this. NOT unless you moved to the country. Then I can see you in your billy boots going out the ealry morn to feed them…they need a wee bit more food than free range and water for sure.
IF you want to see back yard chickens and see what it looks and smells like come on over to my place in the summer. I remember I raise about 20 chickens every year for the freezer? AND what are going to do with said chicken in the winter? They do need warmth unless you going to have chicken stew one day after the snow falls!
My advice …come over for a visit.

5 Chantal February 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

LOL I love this. I actually have this on my 25 random things list. I WANT CHICKENS TOO! I have wanted them for years and until recently (like a year ago) I thought you had to live on a farm to have them. Then one of the bloggers I follow got a coop and wrote about it. I think she had two hens in it and when winter came they ate the hens. They will get two more in the spring. She lives somewhere around Toronto I think. Anyhow, I have a tiny tiny back yard (like 20×25) and I don’t think I would get one now but if I ever live in a house with a bigger yard I just might give it a try. I am off to bookmark that eglu site now!

6 Annika February 27, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I don’t think your neighbours in the cramped ‘hood of Barrhaven would appreciate it! LOL

I appreciate the sentiment behind this idea, but I think you’d need to move to the country, or at least have a bit of land to accomplish it. And that doesn’t even go into the whole winter thing.

7 Kerry February 27, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I can see a bylaw complaint. Yep. Not how I want to be written up in the Citizen :o)

8 Karen at Virtually There February 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I think a lot of the commenters haven’t heard yet about the whole urban chicken thing. Yes, winter is a problem but as one commenter said, you can eat them. Other cities in Canada, Waterloo is the one I know of, have changed their bylaws to allow it and I read that Ottawa is considering it. They don’t smell apparently if you take care of them properly and they don’t make noise. The winter is a problem, yes, but hey, winter is a great time for chicken stew! I say, go for it and I’m totally in with you!

9 Amy @ muddy boots February 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

How fun to “meet” another Ottawa area blogger (I’m in Gatineau)… and another one who wants chickens! I’ve put off looking into the bylaws for here in Gatineau because I’m faced with the same winter delema as you. Except last I checked we had over FIVE FEET of snow in our yard!

So if you figure out how to winter them, let me know!

10 DaniGirl February 27, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Okay, I have to admit – I could totally not eat a chicken that lived in my yard. Eggs yes, actual walking clucking chicken? Nope. Could not eat, and defintely could not kill. Can’t even eat fish I fished. Ugh. Am *such* a wussy about that. I mean, hamburger grows on a hamburger tree, right?

Sharon, could I give you my chickens in the fall? And they could live happily at your farm forever, right? The happy animal farm?

*waves hello and welcome to Amy*

11 Emily February 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I’ve wanted to do this for ages! So glad to see that it’s actually pretty easy! The Canadian winters though – sounds like you might need to plan on some roommates for a time!

12 Mom on the Go February 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I wrote about backyard chickens at the beginning of the month. The City of Ottawa prohibits the keeping of livestock but that could change if we mount an effective lobbying effort. As for overwintering (and this is where it’s obvious that I grew up on a farm), you don’t need to overwinter the chickens. They’re livestock, you can eat them and start again in the spring. Of course, I talk to the worms that are supposed to exist solely for the purpose of consuming my veggie scraps. I’m wavering between raising chickens and going vegan ;+)

13 colleen February 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Pure folly but so much fun for the boys…except for Beloved.

14 snackmommy2 February 27, 2009 at 4:18 pm

OK Dani, admit it. This is all an elaborate ruse to conceal the fact that you are actually prepping to be on Survivor. Some people ensure they know how to make fire before they go on, however, you are going for the gusto and ensuring you can be the head chicken lady. Very crafty my dear, very crafy.

15 Shauna February 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I grew up in Canada on the prairies (currently still frozen to the ground as we speak), and we had chickens! They totally survived the winter (though we did bulk up the hay rations for their nests, they survived just fine!). And there’s something pretty cool about going out and getting your own eggs every morning.

I do have to say though, the one thing I do not remember fondly is the smell. Chickens smell, well, pretty awful. But maybe if you keep up on the scrubbin’ it won’t be so bad. My vote is go for it! My beloved wants to get a goat for our yard… wish it was just chickens! ๐Ÿ™‚

16 chichimama February 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Just an FYI, growing up we had a few chickens, and my sister ended up with salmonella, which got traced directly back to the chicken poop in the yard. She was out of school for two or three months, and the Board of Health spent a lot of time at our house.

So the short answer is, no, my God, the germs.

17 Fawn February 28, 2009 at 2:17 am

We’ve had a blogger discussion about this in Whitehorse. If we’re thinking about doing it here (although the City is not interested in changing its by-laws at this point… need more pressure!) then it can certainly be done in Ottawa! I generally don’t like birds a lot (I mean, I like them outside, but as “pets” they just seem dirty and smelly) but despite that I like the idea of keeping chickens. Martha Stewart did an article about heritage chicken breeds a few years ago, and they’ve been on my mind ever since…

18 Marianne February 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

To add to the purely practical considerations, don’t forget to consider what you’ll do when you want to go away on vacation. Do you know someone willing to care for the chickens in your absence?

Also, I’d plan an exit strategy in case it doesn’t work out and you need to find a new home for the chickens. I know kindergarten teachers who want to hatch eggs in their classrooms have a really hard time these days finding a home for the fluffy darlings once they’re hatched.

19 Marla March 1, 2009 at 8:46 am

Tempting, I agree. I’ve always wanted to do a Toronto version of “Chicken Shit Sundays” :

But then I remember, we have pets that also think Chickens and their eggs are delicious Tell me – are Katie and the cat on board with this?

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