Backyard Chickens: Pets With Payback

Even in urban areas, it pays to count your chickens—as pets.

By Diane Peters From Reader's Digest Canada, March 2010

If you visit Heather Havens, you’d better like animals. Along with their two dogs and a cat, Havens and her husband have two hens, Zilla and Cheeks.

Chickens may not be as cuddly as kittens, but they make great pets: They’re pretty and comical to watch, they gnaw on pesky bugs, their waste acts as garden compost, they’ll eat some of your organic kitchen waste, and their digging and scratching aerates your soil.

“They’re great community builders,” says Havens, who’d been raising chickens in Surrey but recently moved back to the U.S. to her native Portland. “When you have chickens, everyone in your neighbourhood wants to talk to you.”

But the big benefit of this pet is fresh eggs. Young hens lay an egg every day or so—fewer in winter and when they’re moulting. Egg-laying slows down after age two or three and eventually stops altogether.

Chickens need a henhouse for laying eggs, keeping warm in winter and staying safe from predators. You can purchase premade coops—such as the fancy $525 Eglu—or build your own from designs you can find on the Internet. Allow for about two square feet each inside the coop, and at least four square feet each outdoors for a fenced-in run.

Adding a chicken to your family has its downside, too: These pets are not permitted in most Canadian cities. So unless you live in a rural area, in B.C. cities such as Vic­toria, New Westminster or Surrey, or in Ontario’s Niagara Falls, Brampton or London, you could get a small fine and be asked to give up your chickens. Check your local bylaws.

Still, having pet chickens in urban areas can be a challenge, especially for those who live nearby; so stay on your neighbours’ good sides!

Do you think backyard chickens should be legal in Canada? Join the debate and voice your opinion!


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