Since 1978, it’s been illegal for Torontonians to raise fowl within city limits — and for decades, most residents have respected the prohibition. But in recent years, the growing locavore movement and a greater interest in urban agriculture have precipitated a rise in clandestine backyard chicken farming. Hens provide families (and complicit neighbours) with fresh eggs, but determining how many of these birds call Toronto home is tricky.
“The city does not receive a lot of complaints about backyard hens,” says Elizabeth Glibbery, manager of Toronto Animal Services. “But over the last five to six years, we have received more complaints than in the past.”
Glibbery pegs the number of complaints at somewhere between 50 and 75 per year. “We don’t have a clue about how many [hens] are out there,” she says. “We do not have the right to enter onto private property, so we have to rely on complaints from neighbours.”
Urban farmers in Ontario who want to raise egg-laying hens in their hometown should check local bylaws. If they happen to live in Toronto (and are law-abiding citizens), they might consider moving to Guelph, where egg farming is legal.
(The fine for keeping chickens in Toronto is $240. TVO does not recommend breaking the law.)
CORRECTION: The text of this article originally stated that backyard chickens were legal in Hamilton. In fact, that city is reviewing its bylaw. We regret the error.
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