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LETTER: This side of the fence

Canadians coast to coast will have wildly varying opinions about Toronto as a trendsetter.

But one area of influence that might not readily spring to mind would be raising chickens in the backyard – in urban settings.

Adding a bit of animal husbandry is indeed becoming more popular among households, an addition to turning a patch of soil into a garden to raise a few vegetables. But few would expect that to crop up in a large city.

Yet, under a new pilot project, Toronto city council has approved a pilot project that would allow residents in some neighbourhoods to keep up to four hens – no roosters allowed – in their backyards. Presumably the appeal would be to provide fresh eggs to the household at a time when more and more people want to know the source of their food. Although, their value as pets can’t be ignored.

One detail that rural folks wouldn’t have to worry about, residents who want to keep a few chickens have to register with the city. The pilot will run in four city wards over the next three years with an interim review in 18 months.

No doubt there will be complaints. And in fact opponents have already sounded out, saying the project will generate complaints and tie up the city’s bylaw enforcement officers.

But the chickens won’t be allowed on properties without sufficient outdoor space. And those naysayers perhaps aren’t aware that hens – without roosters around – don’t make a lot of fuss, four don’t make much smell.

This pilot is just one more, highly laudable, effort to let people be more self-sufficient in providing themselves food.

The chicken industry over the years has taken some heat – rightly or wrongly. Critics often focus on the standards involving breeding for fast growth that see broilers raised in six weeks, ready for the table. It’s a far cry from the fowl as raised generations ago – and still the stock of many farms.

In many cases it’s taken an outcry from animal rights advocates to improve conditions for layers, the cage sizes provided for them and perhaps a little rest time with the lights out.

On this note, people interested in the topic can look forward to the latest documentary from Morgan Spurlock, best known for his Super Size Me film that looked at fast food. This sequel, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken, Spurlock has said in interviews, explores the workings of chains that work with the “big chicken” industry.

People can hunt and peck information as they choose from this or other offerings about food industries.

But there is no denying that many are becoming more interested in what they can grow themselves, or what they can buy that’s produced within miles of their home, rather than rendered in a factory setting in a central location somewhere in this vast country.

Canadians with homegrown fancies will find this experiment in Toronto interesting – and be content that, in most places, raising a few chickens won’t meet the same level of challenge. All they have to do is get cracking.

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