Raising chickens: misguided fad or timely solution for a starving world?

Chilliwack resident Carol Bartels has concerns with government controls over our food sources, particularly as it relates to raising backyard chickens.

Editor;

For years we have been assured by the food industry and government that they our best interests at heart. Ad campaigns such as “The Faces of Farming,” that use photos depicting wholesome families, posing with contented farm animals, have succeeded in making us feel closer to the foods we choose.

Canadians obligingly and unwittingly have handed over the reins and put money and power in the drivers’ seat! Few of us even keep a vegetable garden, let alone the half dozen or so backyard chickens which were once quite common. We’ve come to rely on multi-million dollar corporations to satisfy our appetites. From genetically engineered and modified soy, corn and grains, to antibiotic and growth hormone-laden meat – we have consumed without even asking questions.

Until now.

In recent years, eye-opening documentaries such as Food Inc. and Earthlings have cracked the exterior of the farm industry. People are beginning to be concerned about their health but they’re also starting to wonder about the inhumane treatment of food animals. What seems like a growing trend to enjoy humanely grown, antibiotic-free meat, organic fruits, vegetables and grain without chemicals has led to a collective push to find alternate sources of food.

Like the folks in Vancouver who successfully demanded a bylaw allowing them to raise their own chickens, people in other so-called urban areas are asking for the same. Why are so many municipalities saying ‘no’? Do we not have a basic right to produce food ourselves, or must we be reliant on these factory farms for our sustenance?

In the wake of Vancouver’s decision, many chicken advocates in various Canadian communities have picked up on the call to have a bylaw in their towns. The question has been asked, where is all the food going to come from that our growing population needs? And how do we find healthier food for ourselves and for our families.

Allowing a backyard flock may be one answer to our problems.

Many people spoke out against the Vancouver bylaw in city council meetings before it was adopted, citing possible mistreatment and neglect of chickens. If you know anyone who keeps a small number of chickens, you would see a virtual Chicken Hilton, compared to conditions commercial poultry are kept in. Water and food are available at will, and the chickens can walk around pecking the dirt for bugs and other treats. These chickens are living in luxury which can’t be underestimated when compared to hens spending their lives in crowded cages, heads stuck between bars pecking at a communal trough, barely able to move or lay down.

Of course it hasn’t been long since stories of species jumping, mutating viruses and superbugs have dominated the headlines. Fear of Zoonotic diseases that can transmit from animal to human, bring to mind epidemics like the Spanish flu, but sometimes media sensationalism can obscure facts. Some poultry farms have more than 100,000 birds, mostly in battery cages. This is the enormous size of some of the operations in which 17 million birds were destroyed during the avian flu scare of 2004.

Citizens against the bylaw also talked about the smell and noise chickens make. While roosters can be loud in the morning, hens are not. They squawk a little bit when they lay eggs, but besides that, they make a soft clucking noise and, by sunset, are fast asleep. Residents were anxious about drawing unwanted pests like rats and racoons to the neighbourhood, even though these creatures already exist in downtown Vancouver drawn by garbage, compost and garden.

When I was a child, my dad converted a shed into a chicken house for a half-dozen hens. We always had a lot of fresh eggs. I fondly remember the soft warm feeling of the chickens’ feathers on my hands as I reached under them and took their eggs. They were gentle and could be petted and held like any domestic animal. A natural fit with children, backyard chickens don’t need much space and the soft chattering of a few chickens goes unnoticed in a world filled with barking dogs, boom boxes and traffic.

When you compare the smell and noise of keeping dogs, I would say keeping hens is more beneficial.

Even if you wanted to boycott factory eggs, the government makes it difficult for you to employ another option. Chilliwack urbanites aren’t able to keep chickens, and organic free range farmers are subject to so much red tape they can’t compete.

It appears to me the issue is about profits.

Just as the dairy industry and health authority refuses to let independents sell raw milk, bureaucrats and the growers seem to be in cahoots to control our food.

Why do they care? The threat of avian flu? We know it started in – and thrives on – overcrowding. Is it the welfare of the chickens? Which is better, a few well cared-for hens in my backyard or 100,000 featherless, sickly hens with their beaks cut off? Is it the noise and the smell? Somehow I doubt it when the din of urban life drowns out everything natural and the smells of factory farms are as close as your open window.

According to the City of Chilliwack, I can keep three dogs and two cats in my city yard no matter how large the dogs, or how small the yard. But I may not keep one solitary chicken.

In Vancouver, New York and Portland, O.K. But not in Chilliwack?

Carol Bartels

Chilliwack

Just Posted

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

Pig races at the 147th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 10, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack Fair plans in-person event for 149th annual exhibition

Will be first large-scale, in-person event in over a year, provided regulations continue as planned

Vivian Le is one of two local recipients of a Beedie Luminaries scholarship.
Chilliwack students overcome adversity to win Beedie Luminaries scholarships

Sardis secondary’s Vivian Le and G.W. Graham’s Alisa Gusakova are among 112 students receiving money

Crews work on the construction of Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt near the Vedder River on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack School District shuffling catchment areas as Stitó:s Lá:lém totí:lt construction continues

SD33 is looking for public input about proposed catchment and feeder school options

A CH-149 Cormorant from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox on a training exercise in Chilliwack on June 16, 2021. (William Snow photo)
VIDEO: Military search and rescue training in Chilliwack Wednesday

CH-149 Cormorant and CC-115 Buffalo from CFB Comox participated in downed aircraft rescue simulation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read