Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

1867 – Joy Road


Joy RoadOn a recent [amazing] trip down to the Slow Food Canada national meeting, I happened to end up in a restaurant for dinner in Penticton, Cam and Dana happened to be there as well, and the restauranteur happened to introduce us. They’d just been back from foraging, and had a van full of watercress and nettles destined for the dinner the following night for the Slow Food national delegates. Already had 2 shoots booked the following day, but couldn’t not slide by to visit them in between to interview them while they prepped.

Anybody, especially those in industry, that takes the leap into local producers and organics, makes their own charcuterie, does artisan baking, raise laying hens and hogs, and forages their greens for a posh dinner gig = super cool in my books. I have time for these kinds of folks, all day long.

The Okanagan food scene is changing. Fast. I spent a fair bit of time down there a few years back and loads of what I saw at the Slow Food conference – artisan bakers, cheese makers, foragers, etc – didn’t seem to be around back then. A lot of twenty-and-thirty-somethings are making a major dent in improving the burgeoning food scene, thank god for that. The wine scene seems to be maturing as well, with more consistently higher quality bottlings, and the price points to go with. Having just spent some time in Napa & Sonoma, I will bravely admit to vastly preferring the Okanagan. Wine critic extraordinaire Jancis Robinson once wrote something to the effect that the Okanagan is only behind New Zealand for most epicly beautiful wine region on planet Earth. Add a wicked food scene to that? Joy Road are in the pack making that perfect storm happen.

Episode 39 – Backyard Hens, Part 3


As the urban hen debate in our city heats up, here’s another video featuring yet another urban hen keeper. Well, two hen keepers, in fact. The more I get buried in this issue, the more I realize how important it is. In our province at least, it has become about the right for people to produce their own food. That, and the classic objections of noise and poop. I have yet to visit an urban coop that was noisy or smelled of anything at all. I’m pretty sure the same could be said for the vast majority of those who object.

This issue is ramping up momentum because the city is in the throes of putting together a ‘Food and Urban Agriculture Project’, and while I have yet to run into anybody in the food community that has a clue what the city’s up to, apparently they’ve done some work that will be unleashed at a conference held on May 25-26. Sadly, it will cost you $184 to attend to find out what’s going on or to share your voice, for what is tagged as “a key milestone in the engagement process”. Even for not-for-profits. Ouch. Liane wrote a really solid post about this whole thing. I’ve paid my dues to be there, and can’t wait to find out what the heck is going on, and who ends up having the $ to be part of the conversation around urban ag in the city.

Episode 38 – Backyard Hens, Part 2


Just a couple days prior to going to shoot video of yet another nice person and their backyard chickens, this lady got a visit from a bylaw officer asking her to remove her birds or pay the $500 fine. Admittedly, I was relieved that they had paid her a visit before I did the video, otherwise I’d feel like it was somehow my fault. She’s decided to not pay the fine and see the city in court. As it turns out, she has to wait in line as another decision is pending thanks to this guy. She’s since started an Edmonton chapter of CLUCK. I had her speak to $ cost, time cost, and a variety of other topics that folks generally ask about when it comes to backyard hens.

I know viewers will ask or be curious around how she got busted. Although I don’t know the specifics, I do know that she was perhaps pushing her luck on a couple fronts – first by having roosters [generally a no-no even in cities that allow backyard hens, and source of potential noise complaints], but perhaps more of a liability was that the chickens are allowed to roam freely in the neighbourhood. I certainly wouldn’t care if she was my neighbour and did that – perhaps a rogue egg would end up in my yard, my garden would get fertilized, or it would eat some insects for me – but I completely understand that somebody on the block is bound to object. Let your cat roam, no biggy [illegal], let your hens roam, $500 fine [also, illegal]. I never thought I’d find ‘pet law’ interesting, but it most certainly is.

As an aside, River City Chicken Collective is now on Twitter @rivercityhens.

Episode 36 – Backyard Hens, Part 1


Backyard Hens in Edmonton

Ever since my first visit to an urban backyard coop, I’ve been sold that backyard hens are a genius idea. From quality fresh egg supply to insect control, pet companionship to the ultimate supply of fertilization for the yard and garden, they make sense. Yet in many urban areas, bylaws restrict having poultry, full stop.

In an effort to bring some awareness to the issue, I’m producing a series of videos about folks with backyard coops in Edmonton, so that those who might want to give it a shot can get ideas and inspiration, and most of all so that those that oppose it can hear from those that have them – to perhaps balance their perspective a bit. I know I had a pile of questions about urban hens prior to checking out my first setup – all of which were quickly alleviated. River City Chickens has been advocating for a bylaw change for years here with no success, yet the City of Edmonton claims they want a progressive urban ag policy. Something there doesn’t add up.

The gentleman in this episode is not what you’d typically expect as the stereotypical chicken-keeper. Male, military, dog owner.

Backyard Chickens. Edmonton, it’s time.


I forgive those of you in more progressive cities that will yawn at the title and read something else. You’ve probably heard enough about them where you live, but here, we’re still fighting the fight to have our city allow backyard chickens. Edmonton’s a little behind the ball. According to River City Chickens, Victoria, Vancouver, Guelph, Niagra Falls, and oh, another 300 or so other North American cities have changed bylaws to okay chickens in their cities. The fight’s being fought in countless others, including ours. Seems like an inevitable outcome to me – and if the city wants to be ‘world-class’, they’re going to need to step up on this front as well.

I’d be the first to admit that I don’t know piles about the issue or politics, but I do have a few questions. First, how does it make any sense that I can have a parrot, but not a chicken? Even worse, how can my neighbor have a dog that probably should have about as much room as a horse to roam, poops all over their yard [making my yard stink like dog crap in the hot summer heat, barf], leaves big blotches of dead lawn spots all over the spring, wakes me up barking in the middle of the night, and is realistically a lethal threat to my small children [human children, I mean] okay by the city – but a chicken, not a chicken. What kills me is I’m even okay with the dog – my gripe isn’t the dog, simply the ridiculousness of the logic here. Another neighbour can have cats that roam the land, poop in my garden [that feeds children] and my childrens’ sandbox, require braking to not injure when driving in the back alley, and my option, according to the city, is to trap them if they’re in my yard. Yeah. I’m a former cat owner, and although not always bright, know that trapping said cats would be highly unpopular. But cats, okay by the city. Feces, noise, trespassing, life-threatening – approved!  If a neighbour’s chicken ended up in my yard, the way I see it: free food. I’m pretty sure their rogue chicken would not threaten the life of my children.

Why would I get chickens? With all the moisture this year, I have slugs in my garden. Chickens eat slugs. My brassicas are holy from moth larvae – chickens could deal with that too. I don’t use off-site fertilizers, and chickens offer nitrogen created from them eating plant biomass from my yard. I don’t like to weed, and guess what, chickens eat weed seedlings. Oh yeah, and they produce eggs, daily – extremely high quality eggs. And lots of them. They’re also nice to be around, and won’t kill your children. Apparently they’ll even chase the cats away from pooping in my garden. This seems like a no-brainer to me.