The masses of snow in our back and front yards are finally melting - revealing dirty grass and dead, broken plants. This is good incentive to start planning what we can do with our back yard this spring.
I imagine colourful blossoms, lush tomatoes and pots of fragrant herbs. My husband imagines chickens.
It isn't just him. Apparently urban chicken raising is a growing trend - if blogs and websites are any indication (i.e. The City Chicken, The Urban Chicken Underground, How to Keep Chickens in a City and Urban Chickens). These sites are full of advice - such as, under things you'll need for collecting eggs, 'a shield and a little self-confidence if you're scared of birds'.
Unfortunately, it is illegal in Ottawa to raise chickens in backyards. According to BY-LAW NO. 2003 - 77, Respecting Animal Care and Control, section 74 (1) "No person shall keep livestock in any area of the City unless the area is zoned for that purpose or is lawfully used for that purpose." And yes, livestock includes "any domestic fowl (including chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, etc.)". I wonder how hard it would be to convince our city councillor to zone our backyard as livestock-appropriate.
Or we could be chicken rebels and raise illegal birds; bribe our neighbours into complicity with fresh eggs. I admit I like the idea of fresh eggs - and when it comes to getting your food locally, it's hard to get much more local than our own backyard.
Still, I can't say I'm sold on the vision of our back yard becoming a hen house. It might ruffle a too many feathers in the neighbourhood and bring some problems home to roost.