BY SCOTT BLINKHORN
The decision by Kitchener city council to allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards is a step in the right direction.
When the average person sits down in the morning to a breakfast of eggs and toast he has no idea where his food has come from, supermarket aside. It is a problem that extends to virtually all food eaten today.
The disconnect between consumers and their food is challenging to overcome. Certainly supermarkets provide little information. When it comes to eggs and other forms of animal husbandry, this raises serious ethical concerns.
Chickens kept for their eggs live in a variety of systems, from free range, where the hens are allowed to walk the barn floor freely and go outside when weather permits, to large barns where chickens are kept in cages, unable to move. Many consumers would find the latter to be unacceptable, but the divide between farm and fork makes it difficult to see potential abuse. Keeping chickens in a backyard coop, on the other hand, promotes respect and care for the animals.
Ethical concerns aside, there are also environmental factors to consider. Kitchener is blessed to sit in the middle of some of the finest farmland in North America. Sadly, due to urban sprawl, a great deal of this land is taken up by subdivisions, complete with small plots of grass which serve no particular purpose. Adding a coop would make use of this otherwise wasted land and make it productive.
There are arguments against keeping chickens of course. Critics complain about the smell and the potential for escaped birds. To the first, there is no getting around it, chickens do smell, but regular cleaning can minimize the odour from their waste. Also, the city has set a precedent, having long allowed other practices that can leave a foul stench, such as composting. Escaping birds are no different than a pet dog or cat getting out of the house, and can be handled in much the same way.
Perhaps the most convincing argument for keeping backyard chickens is that it appears to be something that people want. More than 1,800 people responded to an online survey from the city on the subject, with 87.9 per cent in favour of allowing chickens to be kept in backyards. If nothing else, surely this is a good example of democracy in action.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.