Friday, June 17, 2011

Where have all the urban chicken supporters gone?

After Windsor's councillors voted against further exploring the pros and cons of urban chickenkeeping earlier this year, not much has been written on the subject in the media.  You may be wondering whether the supporters had given up.

Far from it!

What we really would have liked to see was a small pilot study so we could document our direct experiences and relay them to council in an objective manner.  We would love councillors to be involved too.

There are plenty of people in Windsorites who keep hens in their backyards, and ideally, we'd like to hear from them and their neighbours.  Obviously, these residents don't want a knock on their door from the city's hyper-efficient chicken enforcement sub-unit.  So we needed a different approach.

We've started a pilot project of our own!  Not in the city, mind you, since that would be illegal.  We've started a collective at an undisclosed location outside the city, where we can all share the rewards and responsibilities of backyard egg production.

Ten families are currently involved, and collectively own 24 hens.

I can tell you that the project is exceeding all our expectations, and I personally have begun to wonder if an urban collective wouldn't  even be a better model for most would-be chickenkeepers than individual ownership.

First, let me explain how it works.  We pooled our money and a modest $50 per family was sufficient to pay for most of the expenses to build a chicken coop, perimeter fencing, feeders, hens and feed to get us going.  It took a fair amount of work to make the coop  secure from predators, and since we used a lot of reclaimed materials, it doesn't look as hip as, for example, the pricey Omlet.  But the hens don't care.  They have every creature comfort they could ever desire:  clean nesting boxes lined with straw, access to the outside whenever they want during the daytime, and delicious organic food.

As for the human participants, where the project is blowing me away, is in the excitement of the children and even some of the spouses.  Since we take turns taking care of the hens, the participating families usually don't see each other very often.  However, the children have given "their" hens names.  There is one particular hen that is more easily identified than the others due to her slightly paler feathers.  She must be really confused:  depending on which day it is and who is visiting her, she is variously called Princess, Emma or Little Lady.

If, like most surburbanites, you haven't been around chickens very much, you would be really surprised to learn how peaceful it is to listen to them cooing and clucking as they go about their business.  So much so, that some of our members have taken to bringing a chair to the coop and reading a book for an hour or so for its relaxing meditative effects!

Be sure to check in again as I explain more about how this extraordinary project is organized.

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Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.