I bet your answer isn’t chickens. Of course, most city dwellers don’t keep chickens in their backyards, but it turns out there are quite a few who do.

Zoning issues for this conundrum have been on the table recently at Toronto City Hall. If you’re like me, seeing news coverage of this problem made you kind of roll your eyes and whisper, “Oh, please.” But, if the chickens were mine and I was planning on inviting them for Thanksgiving dinner, that’d be a whole different kettle of fish, if you’ll pardon my mixed metaphors.

If this zoning change were to happen in Toronto, we’d be joining some other world class cities who already allow backyard chicken farmers – Vancouver, New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Kingston, Ontario. Who knew? I’ve been in all of those cities and I’ve never heard even the tiniest peep from the backyards in any of them.

Protesters could join the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement who promise to stop the building of a new airport in Pickering. Or, there are NIMBYs also found north of the GTA who want to stop garbage being dumped near them. Think of the anti-hens as the cluckers of the group.

Of course, if this zoning change were to be approved, there would have to be discussion and decisions about the rules of keeping chickens. I’d think that City Council would be able to spend weeks haggling out different points of view. Should we allow roosters too? Or would that early morning call be too much for neighbours to bear? But, equality issues aside, what good is a chicken without a rooster? Would your neighbour’s kids be setting up an egg stand in the front yard, kind of like a lemonade stand?

Then of course we’d need rules about the smell. When I was a little girl visiting my aunt’s farm, I had the daily task of collecting the eggs. It is without a doubt the most foul (fowl?) smell in the world.

I have to wonder if it’s chickens this week, will it be ducks next week? And pigs after that? And, I can only imagine the protests that would be yelled loud and clear by the backyard cow group.

I do have a solution for all of this: just as municipalities have garden plots that city dwellers can rent for the growing season, why not lease out some farm animal land too? I think that would be a cluck of an idea.


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