Caledon’s Hens Come Home to Roost

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This afternoon, November 28, 2017, at the Town of Caledon General Committee Meeting, the rooster crowed. Well, figuratively speaking. Our Backyard Hens by-law came closer to being a reality today when the vote was carried by a majority of our elected representatives. The rooster, however, was not invited into any of our backyards – this is a quiet clucking Hens Only club.

Thanks to the excellent report done by our Town Staff, headed by Patrick Trafford, we came up with a by-law tailored specifically to the Caledon context. Drawing on the best information available from other municipalities who have similar by-laws, Patrick and his team put together an intelligent and thoroughly researched report.

Input came from local citizens, experts in other municipalities, and discussions with the Region of Peel Public Health Unit, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. All of this was hard-boiled down into 32 Regulations for Residential Backyard Hens. This alone should curb the compulsive immediate gratification enthusiasm of the “They’re so cute! Let’s get a bunny for Easter!” crowd.

These agricultural “pets with benefits”, as one long term backyard hen aficionado has described them, have better care guidelines than most of the dogs and cats living here. Their housing, health care and safety were paramount in the design of the regulations, as well as the health of their human caregivers and neighbours. As to the fears of salmonella poisoning and the spread of avian flu, those concerns were dealt with by the Centre for Disease Control with three words: Wash Your Hands.

It seems that in the three months since we first raised this simple health solution, along with not rolling in chicken feces or deep kissing your hen, some Councillors were still having trouble processing how truly safe it is to keep backyard hens.  And the new Town guidelines have set down best practices to help us do it even better. On the other hand, after your cat buries its poop in scratched up kitty litter and then walks all over your face while you’re filming its cute antics on your cell phone for an Instagram posting, do you ever worry about cat-scratch fever, Salmonellosis, roundworms or tapeworms from your cat’s stool? Or, how about man’s best friend?

Sure, after your dog has just cleaned the private parts, that same tongue gives you a big wet slobbering kiss that just might contain Leptospirosis, Canine Brucellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Capnocytophaga Canimorsus, and our old friend Salmonellosis. Yes, a dog’s tongue does have antibacterial properties – for cleaning up its own physiology!

Cats have staff, dogs have packs, and hens have eggs – organic (depending on the feed), free run (not free-range) home grown eggs. Keep in mind that if you are ordering your chickens it is best to go with a reputable hatchery like Freys in St. Jacobs, or Cirrus Farms in Meaford. They won’t usually be selling them now, but you can call in your order in February and pick up those ready-to-lay (RTL) pullets in March as we will be doing for the Albion Hills Community Farm pilot project.  We’ll be there to help educate the public on how to do it just right.

Congratulations, Caledon! Our dreams of having the opportunity to expand our local food production just got a little more sustainable.


Skid Crease, Caledon




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