A chicken in every city lot

It seems city folks just don’t have a lot to worry about these days - if the recent ruffling of feathers between the Calgary chicken police and chicken huggers is any indication.

It seems city folks just don’t have a lot to worry about these days – if the recent ruffling of feathers between the Calgary chicken police and chicken huggers is any indication. But that’s what happens when city alder people insist on banning practices, behaviours and products that defy common sense and yes – the chickens have come home to roost.

The issue involves city folks who have a few hens in their yard and a Calgary city bylaw that outlaws having chickens on private property in the city limits. The chicken huggers feel it is their right to have a few birds on their property for food or entertainment. The city chicken folks are therefore defying the Calgary bylaw against their pets.

They should be bothered by this outrage if for no other reason that it exposes a flagrant double standard. Calgary is home to countless thousands of yapping dogs, annoying cats, entire flocks of useless budgies and parrots, a plague of gerbils and other mindless rodents, vast schools of inedible goldfish and hordes of horrid reptiles. So what have chickens done to be singled out for banning – nothing really – so this just might be a vegetarian conspiracy.

Busybody city bureaucrats will tut-tut about the bylaw being designed to control odours and nuisance from farm animals. But that is a lot of bull fudge, there are cattle and horses happily grazing within the city limits and have done so for years. But then maybe its because Calgary city councillors have a fear of chickens (or is it a fear of hen-pecking) – its called Alektorophobia – clearly counselling is the answer. Come to think of it, this city council could use counselling for a lot of reasons – maybe it will release deeply repressed feelings of common sense.

But before city consumers afflicted by organicism and free-rangeitis rush out to buy a protest chicken to express their political solidarity with these chicken loving outlaws, they should know that keeping chickens has some reality issues. Firstly, if you plan to treat them as anything besides a feathery pet you are fooling yourself. Yes they can produce eggs to eat, but they are not free. Unless someone gives you a chicken, a ready to lay hen will cost you around $12 bucks. Then you need to construct a facility to house and protect the precious birds. That’s because if left outside, they will sooner or later freeze to death or become lunch for the friendly neighbourhood coyote or some nasty tom cat.

Then there is the matter of feeding them – they do not live on sunshine and love as many animal rights people might wish. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are not vegetarians, they will eat bugs, worms, even meat scraps. Heck, thanks to their dinosaur ancestry, they have a cannibalistic streak and will even eat their own eggs and each other – which is the source of the term “pecking order”.

Once they have exhausted those sources of food, the proud city chicken owner has to buy high-protein expensive poultry feed usually from a far away out of town store. After all that and the hen hasn’t just died from loneliness, been killed by a predator or been kidnapped by the city chicken police, you would be lucky to clear 10 bucks in a year.

Did I mention egg production usually crashes after one year and there may be a need to recycle the hen into chicken soup. But wait – there is no doubt a city bylaw against murdering your pet and having it for supper.

There is more of course – there is that nasty disease issue. Chickens can carry salmonella, that common food-borne pathogen that sickens and can kill humans. Chickens can also be carriers of Avian Flu – remember that was last year’s media panic before being displaced by the H1NI flu.

One of the dangers of this bylaw dust-up is that the Calgary city council will appoint a committee to review the matter. Given the bureaucrats’ affection for regulations, we’ll probably see city chickens needing license tags around their necks and they will need a million dollar holding facility for runaway chickens. Chicken police will need specially-designed chicken holding trucks that will not negatively affect the dignity of wayward chickens.

But maybe consumers should be forced to keep a hen for a year – at least once in their life. That way most city folks will probably come to realize how lucky they are to be able to buy safe wholesome eggs and poultry meat at their local grocery store for some of the lowest prices in the world.