Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Chickens In Soup

chicken cartoon

By Michael Levenston
From City Farmer Newspaper (25 cents)
Volume 1, Number 1
August 1978
Copyright (C)
City Farmer 1996

Chickens Forced
Out Of Town

This was the cover story of our first issue of City Farmer Newspaper way back when. People are still trying to figure out how to beat City Hall's by-laws. If a neighbour complains, health officials are forced to investigate, but most of the time chicken owners are left undisturbed for years. Check your city bylaws, keep your yard tidy and offer your neighbours fresh eggs every now and again.

Growing your own vegetables in the city rarely makes the front page of the daily newspaper, but producing your own eggs and meat does. The Sun and Province newspapers have given a lot of coverage to the story of Gabriella Centenary who keeps chickens illegally at her Vancouver home.

Mrs. Centenary is on welfare and says, she must be resourceful. "Chickens make a lot of sense - I've got hereditary anemia and I need eggs and chicken meat for protein. I grow most of my own vegetables too, and the chickens are good for my garden."

For over two years Mrs. Centenary has been doing battle with the City. Just recently in provincial court she was given a suspended sentence and put on probation for six months for breaking the by-law which makes it unlawful for any person in Vancouver to keep horses; cattle, swine, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, pigeons or bees.

It is lawful to keep hamsters, guinea pigs, tame mice, chinchillas, cats, rabbits or other small animals, snakes and other reptiles to a maximum of six each.

D.A. Morgan, Director of the Division of EnvironmentaI Health in Vancouver, is the man who must answer a complaint about a rooster crowing at four in the morning (and every five minutes after for several hours). He is not unfamiliar with chickens. At one time he raised them in the city. Now he raises them at his home on Bowen Island.

Mr. Morgan believes that the city is not the place for chickens, their manure attracts flies and their feed brings rats to the yard. The odour isn't pleasant and slaughtering the birds can frighten a neighbour's children. He says that there just isn't enough room in the city for people to raise chickens.

But there are citizens in Vancouver who believe that chickens have a place in our city. They feel that barking dogs and noisy lawnmowers have less value than a high-protein, egg-producing hen. They say that most of their neighbours enjoy the chickens, which remind them of a peaceful country farm.

In the city the chickens must be kept in a clean environment, fed an adequate diet and given all the fresh pure water they will drink. These precautions ensure healthy animals.

Flies which are attracted to the ammonia in chicken wastes are put to good use. They are captured in traps and fed to the hens. Some studies have shown that at least a quarter of a chicken's diet can be flies, another half weeds and other plant wastes, and their egg laying will still continue to equal that of chickens raised entirely on commercial feed.

Chicken manure is extremely rich in nitrogen which is needed in all plant life. It makes an excellent addition to the compost pile, which in turn helps produce better vegetables.

The inhabitants of a house in the city of Berkeley, California, who raise chickens, slaughter one per week in their backyard, yielding 16 ounces of meat. They estimate a production cost of 35 cents per pound. Their layers produce approximately 30 eggs per week at an estimated 40 cents per dozen.

Before chicken raising can become legal in Vancouver, it is necessary to begin a calm, intelligent exchange of information between those who are convinced that chickens have a place in the city and those who are not.

Correct standards for the management of chickens will have to be drawn up to ensure a healthy environment and permits should be sold to pay an inspector's salary.

Many thanks to the "Chauvel Fund" of Vancouver for their generous support of City Farmer Society (2003) We hope their chickens live long in the City!

"Bantam Menace": On-line Film About Chickens in the City
"A student documentary about a young man who owned pet hens illegally in Vancouver." Posted September 9, 2005

The Eglu: A Chicken House for City Farmers.
"Fresh, great tasting food and a healthier lifestyle. Keeping chickens that lay delicious eggs is easy and fun. The Eglu is the world's most stylish and innovative chicken house and is the perfect way to keep chickens as pets. If you live in the middle of a city, in the suburbs or in the countryside, you can start living the good life." Posted April 14 2004

"'CustomCoops' are small animal or poultry shelters that are compact for residential use, modular for increase in flock, mobile for humane, educational and organic purposes, and can be transformed from a brooder to a poultry shelter to a small animal habitat in seconds!"

Chickens Becoming Popular Urban Pets In US
"A recent show by the Seattle Tilth Association featured the latest in chic coop designs. Among the most elaborate was a seven-part cedar structure including a fully-insulated main tower with sand-blasted glass windows decorated with etchings of chicks and hens. The coop has four windows, complete with screen and storm windows, a thatched roof and a swinging drawbridge." Posted May 27, 2006

Raising Birds in an Urban Area Dealing with Zoning Regulations, Ordinances, and the Neighbors
1. Bart Pals' article, "Helping Poultry Breeders Raise Birds in an Urban Area" that was originally published in the 1996 APA Yearbook, pages 121-28.
2. The article, "Can I Have Pigeons Where I Live?" by James F. Avery, the secretary/treasurer of the National Pigeon Association. The article was originally published in the NPA Quarterly Review 2000, Volume III of 4, pp.7-8

How to Raise Chickens

Determined Teen Wins Chicken Fight

Keeping Chicken Pens Clean

Fenita White wrote to us and made these suggestions.

  1. Use a garage with a cement floor. You can hose it down with a barn broom every day . THAT KEEPS THE FLYS OUT.

  2. Put your chicken roost in one spot and put a catch pan under it. This is where most of the waste occurs.

  3. Birds will produce more eggs in a dim area.

  4. Put two cinder blocks together and put a water feeder on top or hang the feeder from the ceiling with wire. This prevents rodents from drinking.

  5. When it's feeding time, give your birds just enough feed to last them until dark because rodents travel at night looking for food. And always clean out your feeders at night so rats and mice won't have a reason to visit. This will also silence the health inspector.

It's a fact that a big chicken farmer has a harder and costlier time taking care of chickens then a person with only 5 to 10. I believe the best birds for eggs and meat are the Plymouth Rock. They don't fight like cross breeds and their meat doesn't get tough. If you capanize them, they will reach a weight well over 10 lbs. and will only eat two and a half ounces a day.

I've raised 30 Road Island Reds, 75 White Rocks, 20 Plymouth Rocks, 5 Barred Pymounth Rocks and 25 Burbon Turkeys. A friend pays a dollar a pound for birds on holidays and picks them up. People in the big city pay good mony for fresh meat and that takes care of my Christmas season.

Fenita lives in a town named Otisco, South of Syracuse, NY high in the mountains where winters are harsh . She's never lost a bird!

Robin Fox

I enjoyed your article on urban chicken farming. I've had a chicken in my apartment since 1996. I bought the first one at the fair and the 4H kid told me that if you put it in a rabbit pen on the porch there wouldnt be a problem. I let my chicken walk around the house in designated area for waste deposits ( the living room rug was not one of those areas) and keep a supply of carpet cleaner and papertowels. Our guests loved our chickens and shared fresh eggs with us. A rooster of course would not make a great pet, because of the crowing and the neighbors, but we didnt have any roosters. So far I have had Penelope, Pricilla, Prudence and Helena (she was a cockrel unfortunately) in the house. My last house chicken is Aubrey and we were able to move to a home with some land, but most of them stay in the garage most times to keep from preditors.

Here are some hints for keeping city chickens.

1. When nosy neighbors ask you what type of bird that is, dont tell them its a chicken. We got away for years using "Austrailian Malley Fowl" that costs "thousands of dollars" "rare show birds" that "win first prizes" in televised shows excuses.

2. Change that cage every day. And I mean every day. Otherwise flies will come to your porch and the smell will arouse suspicion.

3. Walk your chicken in a park or woods where no one goes, bring her favorite food so you can retrieve her right away. Best to keep away from ducks and other birds so that she doesn't get an infection from them.

4. If you are caught and they ask you to get rid of the chickens and you cant move, there is a good solution. I had a friend that loved chickens just as much as I do, and he has a big farm not too far I rented a spot from him and put my birds over there. This way when I went on vacation, I would have someone to watch them too! For a couple of bucks a month there has got to be a farmer that will let you share his or her land.

Further Reading:

The City People's Book of Raising Food
Helga and William Olkowski
Rodale Press Inc. 1975

The Integral Urban House
Self-Reliant Living in the City

By the Farallones Institute
Sierra Club Books 1979

Raising Chickens
Cynthia Haynes
Tab Books 1985

Raising Your Own Turkeys
Leonard Mercia
Gardening Way Books 1981

How to Raise Rabbits and Chickens in Urban Areas
Tom Javites and Mart Perry 1976
Ecology Centre, 2179 AlIston Way
Berkeley California 94704

Chicken Feed - The World of Chickens
"This site is to help the exchange of information about raising chickens by traditional methods, as well as by modern natural methods. We are especially interested in obtaining and/or blending our own feed from natural, unprocessed ingredients. The main goal is to produce poultry products, especially eggs, that engender the best possible health in the consumer. "

If you like chickens, how about a chicken costume?  Our quality selection of halloween costumes are the best in the industry.  Need pirate costumes for a weekend party?   How about an Easter bunny costume?  Whatever your dress-up needs, we got you covered!

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Revised March 29, 2008

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture