Caring for chickens isn’t all meringues and the best quiche you’ve ever had.
“The biggest challenge is they are rather indiscriminate with bathroom habits,” said Mike. “If they are eating that much to make eggs, they have a lot of by products and that is good – we compost it. You have to compost it for a year to get really good garden fertilizer. They wander across the patio and leave little things there and have even escaped into the house on occasion.”
Other challenges include protecting the birds from rats. Apparently rats are common in Lynn Valley compost piles. Mike has taken care to – and the bylaw requires – make the coop inaccessible to rats and to make sure rats don’t partake in the chicken feed.
Another challenge stems from chickens being a bit bird-brained.
“Because we have a dog we don’t leave gates open very often, but the chickens do wander around in the yard and they know where their coop is so they don’t go very far,” says Mike. “But they do disappear and we have chicken panics. There is a lot of things that could happen in the real world. They are not smart enough to not run out in front of a car. They are pretty dumb.”
The most common question the family gets and the number one concern of chicken opponents is noise.
“The chickens make a noise – they don’t do it that often and it’s not an unpleasant noise,” says Mike. “It’s way better than a rock band practicing badly or a diesel [truck] warming up in the morning, or kids screaming or dogs barking or a whole bunch of other things you hear in a human neighbourhood. We were worried about… it’s just part of the background and none of the neighbours seem to care – and I’d hope they would come talk to us if they did.”
The other thing to be aware of, says Mike, is that chickens are fragile – they have been bred to do one thing.
“We made the mistake of getting farm chickens, not ones bred to be pets. The first ones we had were quite weak – one died of an infection and one died of leukemia. We have two now.”
With several years as a chicken owner, Mike insists he doesn’t love them – but he does speak about them with a lot of affection.
“I’m still rather indifferent to them – but my kids would have a different answer. They are entertaining,” says Mike. “There is nothing like a fresh egg – let me tell you. An egg that is made by a chicken that is eating bugs and wandering around eating plants is a completely different thing than what you get in a store.”
Rules on raising hens in Lynn Valley can be found on the DNV website.