Backyard chickens? Toronto thinking it over

(Canadian Press) New York and Chicago already have it — now Toronto is considering joining those cities and allowing residents to raise chickens in their backyards.

Toronto's park and environment committee is considering a pilot project that would permit people to keep the poultry on their property.

Ian Aley, with the non-profit group FoodShare, says it has plans to rent half an acre at Downsview Park in north Toronto where it will grow vegetables, keep bees and raise chickens.

"Chickens lay eggs all the time, so if you're feeding a family of six you would have a source of eggs that were fresh, healthy and right on your doorstep," he said.

Aley said most cities don't allow growing chickens for their meat — just for eggs.

Any pilot would also have to have strict rules about where and how the chickens are kept, especially given the number of raccoons always on the prowl in Toronto.

Coun. Paula Fletcher, who chairs the parks and environment committee, says local food production and urban farming are priorities. But, she says, there are all kinds of issues surrounding chickens.

"We are looking at criteria, looking at where we could do a pilot, so there will be no egg production in local backyards, just yet," said Fletcher.

FoodShare is offering to conduct the pilot project for the city — but only with chickens, no roosters. Neighbours would be allowed to keep sleeping without the annoying, early morning, cock-a-doodle-doo.

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