originally written for Just Sayin’ Caledon – a news commentary
There are going to be some new girls in Town this spring, Caledon, and they’re all coming to the Albion Hills Community Farm. They are known in the industry as RTLs – ready to lay pullets – and they are going to teach us a thing or two about home grown food.
Yes, these are our special backyard hens that will be on display at the Albion Hills Community Farm all spring, summer and fall. Thanks to our research with municipalities around Ontario last year as we were preparing the Town’s By-law on keeping Backyard Hens, we were able to connect with some top breeders.
We will we be hosting the standard backyard hen known as the Golden Buff, or more commonly as the red cross sex-link from Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs, ON. These four girls will be on view in our permanent coop and run built to Town by-law specifications by the talented students at Humberview Secondary School.
But we will also have the only Canadian breed of chicken known, and the only natural winter egg layer known, the endangered Chantecler from Quebec. Thought at one point to have gone extinct, the Chantecler was rediscovered on a few small farms and the stock is slowly rebuilding. The owner of Cirrus Farms in Meaford was so impressed with our enthusiasm for bringing the backyard hens to Caledon, that she hooked us up with a Chantecler breeder. We were lucky enough to get four RTLs that I will be picking up in April.
These hardy all Canadian girls will be showcased in our portable chicken ark courtesy of a partnership with United Lumber’s Home Hardware in Bolton. Part of the purpose of this display at the AHCF is to help educate the public on the proper care and realities of taking on backyard hens for your family. Besides the expense and time, this is long term pet ownership and requires responsible adult supervision. Our project at AHCF will document the costs, caregiver time, egg production, health and safety issues, and pleasures of raising local food.
Not to mention that our “coop cams” will give a 24-hour live feed to entertain and inform Caledonians and the international community who are connected to AHCF online.
Over the winter months when the AHCF is closed, our hens will go home with caring families to backyards in Caledon, portable chicken ark, water heater, and feed included. Although the Golden Buffs will lay very little over the winter, families will still get a few fresh eggs, so checking their coop every morning is an ongoing part of the responsibility. We’ll compare that with the Chantecler winter egg production as part of our three year studies for the Town.
For those who hear stories about the hens only laying for two to three years, yes it’s true. IF you are a factory farmer who leaves the lights on all the time to force egg production. I’m sure Liam Neeson is going to make a movie about this called “Taken 4 Granted”, where he goes to rescue his hens from a factory farm before 15,000 of them get slaughtered every few years and composted so the barn can be cleared for the next batch of productive ready to lay pullets.
When left to their own devices, most hens slow down in the winter according to the reduced daylight hours. That’s why there will be no artificial lights in their coops – every girl needs a winter vacation. This way their natural egg production will continue for many more years. Of course, if you are an all-Canadian, you just keep going and going through all seasons. Our Chanteclers are very special and will be part of an international study on heritage breeds.
So there you have it in an eggshell! The backyard hens are coming and they are ready to lay fresh eggs right in our own backyards.
Tremendous thanks to Patrick Trafford and the Town of Caledon for their excellent work in preparing a best practices by-law to bring the backyard hens to Caledon. And a very special thank you to the Mayor and a majority of Caledon Councillors and Regional Councillors who championed and supported this endeavour.
Now, let’s get cracking!
Skid Crease, Caledon