The power of poultry

Brian Jones
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Any day now, our fridge is going to hold more eggs than we can eat.

Fortunately, we know some people who want free eggs. The two new chicks — they grow up so fast — will soon be layers.

We fenced them inside the coop to protect them from the other two  hens and rooster. Chickens can be surprisingly violent and murderous,  and even cannibalistic. One of the chicks escaped from the cage one night and received some minor bloodletting for her efforts.

A few big cities — among them Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary — are pondering bylaws to allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

With all the arguing and debating, you have to wonder when it was that modern man — and women, presumably — became so dainty and delicate that the presence of a few animals is considered a threat to health, happiness and civilization.

Urbanites created the environmental movement. And yet, proposals to bring a bit of nature to the suburbs or inner city are opposed by some, as if a few chickens can be equated with the plague or an industrial slew.

Oh, the noise, the smell, the filth. It’s strange opposition, coming from an urban culture that claims to worship Mother Earth.

Shovelling s---

A Vancouver pundit mockingly warned backyard-chicken supporters they would quickly abandon their cause after doing weekly cleanings of their beloved coops. The pontificating wag obviously did not have access to an Interested Adolescent (IA).

An IA is more helpful than any how-to book, because he — or she — will read a 350-page instructional opus and become a fount of knowledge.

An IA could have corrected the condescending Vancouver writer, by pointing out a henhouse doesn’t need to be cleaned weekly, or even  monthly. Every six months will suffice. All that supposedly filthy, disgusting, icky goo dries out amid the wood chips, and turns to dust. Then it gets tossed on the compost pile. (More nature!)

An IA can tell you a coop will remain clean and stench-free if you  allot eight square feet per chicken.

An IA will remind you, as you’re measuring angles for the trusses,  that a coop needs good ventilation. To be on the safe side, we installed four vents. Our coop has more airflow than Signal Hill. You can stand beside it and not know there’s a chicken within a thousand miles.

Getting in touch

A lot could be gained by allowing city dwellers to keep chickens in their backyards. Besides plenty of tasty eggs for omelettes and pancakes, there is a philosophical benefit — people would quickly realize the power and bounty of nature.

A strange and ironic aspect of the environmental movement is that so many of its supporters are urbanites whose daily lives are largely detached from actual contact with the natural environment. This has allowed certain myths to take root, grow and blossom. For instance, it is widely accepted that the world is overpopulated and headed for famine, resource wars and worse. (See: David Suzuki; Gwynne Dyer.)

My chickens disagree. In fact, they are offended. For two years, they have provided four people with all the eggs they need. Soon, they will reach overcapacity — all for $200 a year in feed and bedding, and minimal human labour. If you doubt the bounty of nature, take a close look at what a handful of hens can do.

That’s preposterous, some might say — it’s only anecdotal data. But  that’s exactly my point. If one tiny henhouse can produce more eggs  than a family of four can consume, extrapolate that to all the farms, orchards and fields on the planet.

Hunger and poor nutrition are caused by politics and culture, by human decisions and actions. The Earth is innocent.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary Signal Hill

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Recent comments

  • Eugene from Town
    September 04, 2010 - 07:12

    Excellent point. TPTB (The Powers That Be) seem to be diametrically opposed to engendering self-sufficiency among the electorate; p'raps it might bite into grocery store profits. Too bad we have to limit our egg intake, due to high cholesterol, but the priniciple still applies - garbage bag potatoes are quite easy and require little space to turn eyes into spuds. As for urban environmentalists, being a past member of the Green Party, they don't normally have reality hard-wired into their policy making abilities, otherwise they would surely protest factory farming more vociferously than they do the seal hunt.