Is keeping hens in the city a charter right?

Other cities permit urban coops but Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg are holding out

Running a-fowl of the constitution

Photograph by Jeff McIntosh

In 2009, Paul Hughes phoned up the city of Calgary to alert officials to six egg-laying hens being kept illegally in an urban backyard coop. Calgary’s bylaw services responded by issuing the owner of the chickens a $200 fine for “possessing and keeping livestock” in a prohibited area inside city limits. Only that person was Hughes, who, in an effort to spark a legal battle with the city, had ratted himself out for owning the hens. And so began a constitutional cockfight that landed Hughes in a Calgary courtroom this week, where he argued city-dwelling Canadians have a Charter right to raise their own food by keeping chickens—and potentially other food-producing animals—in their own backyards.

Hughes, an ex-soldier, former weekly newspaper reporter and single father who lives on disability pay of just $12,500 a year, is taking on the complex legal challenge without a lawyer. The Provincial Court of Alberta trial was to wrap up March 9, but a written decision by Judge Catherine Skene isn’t expected for several months.

If Hughes wins he’ll be the plucky hero of thousands of Canadians nationwide who keep clandestine chicken coops for home-fresh eggs in backyards, garages and even basements. It’s estimated Calgary has 300 such urban coops. Yet in many big U.S. cities and some Canadian ones, including Victoria, Vancouver and Guelph, Ont., it’s perfectly legal to keep backyard hens (though cock-a-doodling roosters are banned in every city).

But holdouts like Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg remain. Toronto recently sent out letters to chicken owners charged under its bylaw: it will give them a reprieve on their 30-day deadlines to remove their birds until a ruling is made on Hughes’s case.

Among the facets of his legal defence, Hughes argues that a ban on chickens in one city, while not others, is discriminatory under Section 15 of the Charter, which reads, in part: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.”

But the backbone of his argument is the contention that growing one’s own food in any reasonable way is an inalienable human right upheld by Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is a signatory. Hughes believes he should be able to exercise that right by raising his own chickens for eggs. And the fact that he’s prohibited from doing that in Calgary, while a Vancouverite can, is an infringement, he claims, of his fundamental freedoms of conscience, thought, belief and expression as covered in Section 2 of the Charter. He also contends that under Section 7 (“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person”), “liberty” includes his right to produce food for himself and his family in a manner he sees fit. “This is so much more than just chickens,” says Hughes, who three years ago started a grassroots organization called CLUCK (Calgary Liberated Urban Chicken Klub). It now has 28 chapters across the country. “This has really blossomed into a right-to-food challenge. It’s the first time that the right to food, outside an Aboriginal context, has been brought in front of the courts in Canada.”

With his chicken suit, Hughes is fighting for a growing number of Canadians who see backyard farming as a way to re-engage with nature, control the quality and source of their food and snip some of their dependence on the industrial food chain. Many CLUCK members also have ethical objections to commercial egg-producing methods. Backyard flocks have more room and natural sunlight than most commercial operations, they argue, and hens can engage in normal behaviour like dust baths and chasing bugs.

One of these proponents is Lorraine Johnson, author of City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing. She was busted by Toronto authorities in 2010 for keeping three hens at her downtown home even though no one complained. “My neighbours were completely fine with the chickens.” Her notice came about 10 days after newspaper articles about her book appeared, along with photos of her and her urban chickens. “I guess Animal Services wanted to make an example of me.” Johnson, 51, never lived on a farm. But, just like her, she says, a swell of citified Canadians are “breaking down the distinctions we have between city and country.”

It’s not just a movement of granola eaters and latter-day hippies, either. In the Calgary suburb of Cranston, where streets are lined with closely spaced, large, single-family homes in regulated tones of tan, beige and sienna, sits the residence of Stephanie and Steve Mellross. Parked in front is her Cadillac CTS and his GMC Sierra 4 x 4 pickup. Out back, dusting themselves in a dirt strip, are five softly clucking heritage hens of various breeds. Steve, 41, owns Marco Polo Furnishings, a patio furniture importer. His wife, 38, teaches Grade 4. The couple got their first birds in 2010 knowing it was illegal. The bylaw, says Steve, is “against my rights. I’m growing food, I can do that any way I want, it’s my backyard. I’m not infringing on anyone’s rights.” If anything, he says, “I’ve got more dog poo in my front lawn [from neighbours’ dogs] than there is chicken poo in their yards.” His only complaint from neighbours? That he can’t keep up with neighbourly requests for free eggs.

Prompted by concerns over the corporatization of food, it was Stephanie who came up with the idea to turn their standard-sized back lawn into a combination garden and chicken coop where she grew 260 lb. of vegetables last year and collects about four eggs a day. “I think the industrial model is completely unsustainable,” says Stephanie. “And I think the quality of the food that comes out of the industrial model is sub-par. Even if I buy organic free-range eggs at a premium of $7 a dozen, they still don’t taste as good as the ones I can create myself.”

The chickens, as it seems to be with all the urban hen keepers Maclean’s interviewed, have become more pet than livestock. “I was very surprised how much I warmed up to them,” says Steve. “They are excellent animals and the kids absolutely take to them.” Hughes had hoped to bring one of the Mellross’s chickens, a Buff Orpington named Buffy, to the court as evidence of the tranquil nature of the hens. However Judge Skene, grinning through Hughes’s request, quickly shot down that idea. “I don’t have to think about this one for very long,” she said. “No chicken.”

In Canadian cities that have changed their bylaws to allow backyard chickens, there’s little evidence urban coops have caused problems. In 2010, Vancouver voted to allow residents to keep up to four chickens in some parts of the city. Peter Fricker, the Vancouver Humane Society’s communications director, says the organization opposed urban chickens when Vancouver city council debated the subject. “We were concerned about the standards of care that chickens might get, because a lot of people aren’t familiar with animal husbandry,” says Fricker. The society worried chickens would fall prey to predators and that people would fail to recognize when they were sick and get proper veterinary care. But Fricker credits Vancouver’s council with creating sound guidelines, restrictions and a registration program (not to mention a controversial $20,000 homeless chicken shelter) that has dissuaded all but the most serious chicken-o-philes from setting up coops. Only a few dozen people have registered urban coops since 2010.

Fricker’s concerns about urban chicken coops may have been eased, but the Egg Farmers of Canada, the national association representing egg producers, has concerns about the spread of backyard flocks on the grounds that they expose both chickens and humans to potentially serious health risks such as salmonella. Peter Clarke, the Egg Farmers’ new chairman, argues that animal welfare and food safety regulations in commercial operations—including systems that control temperature and humidity—protect chickens from outdoor predators, keep them clean and separate them from their excrement. Clarke has 34,000 layers and, with his son’s operation, 60,000 pullets (or young hens) on their farms in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Thanks to constant testing for illnesses like salmonella and the professional attention farmers give their hens, he says, life is better for commercial flocks. He insists egg farmers aren’t worried that the spread of backyard flocks might cut into farm profits, but are only concerned about the welfare of the animals. “Our operations, in my opinion, are absolutely better for the birds with regards to their health and cleanliness and the production of safe food.”

Lorraine Johnson isn’t like those chicken activists who are convinced the poultry industry has been pushing lawmakers to maintain bans against urban poultry. But she dismisses Clarke’s notion that commercial operations are better than responsibly run backyard henhouses for healthy, content chickens as “utterly ridiculous.”

Ultimately, chicken rights are a different battle. For now, Hughes is focused not on chicken freedoms, but on the human freedom to keep a reasonable number of well-looked-after chickens on Canadian urban properties. While a few days before the trial he said he was confident about a victory, “There’s a certain degree of nervousness because I’m going in and representing a bunch of people.”

For one of those people, Stephanie Mellross, a win for Hughes will relieve her of the spectre of bylaw officers swooping in for her chickens some day. “It will be nice knowing I won’t have to chain myself to my coop.”




Browse

Is keeping hens in the city a charter right?

  1. The city of Victoria (the urban municipality) has always allowed chickens, and the sky has not yet fallen :)

  2. “egg farmers…only concerned about the welfare of the animals….” wow. Give me a break! They are concerned with profit and production, period. Chickens raised in a backyard in the sun and air and with a somewhat natural lifestyle compared to 5 de-beaked hens packed in a cage with 34 thousand more packed around them…Ludicrous and completely laughable.

    Chickens are sweet, simple creatures that are perfect for small yard pest control, a few eggs every day, and the connection to our food so badly lacking today.
    We have a right to grow food, food we KNOW to be healthy and safe and secure, no matter where we live. Urban agriculture is an idea who’s time has truly come.
    Fingers are crossed for Paul and his court case! 

    • Yeah, that one was tough to swallow. The egg farmers are interested only in protecting their supply managed monopoly. Allowing urbanites to raise their own fowl would cut into their little cartel, and of course they don’t like that. 

    • Chicken’s beaks are even cut off, not to peck each other in their small cages. They keep stepping over each other, hurting, bleeding and pooing on each other. Their life is awful in their cages.

  3. If you want more information on the CLUCK Network across Canada, visit: http://www.facebook.com/groups/CLUCKCANADA/

    •  Paul I need your help!! Was busted today and am going to fight it in Edmonton HELP!!! Will join cluck….

  4. I’m surprised there was no mention of Halifax, where the heavy hand of ByLaw Services has gone after several hen keepers, where a thousand people signed a petition encouraging the city to allow hens, where two public meetings concluded with overwhelming support, and where the city continues to ignore all of the public desire and will to allow hens. Oh, with one exception. They are afraid to go after local businessman, celebrity and mayoral candidate Fred Connors. This city is a backwards conservative small town.

  5. Having chickens is a great experience!  I was born and raised in a city and never thought too much about our food system.  I now have three chickens and fresh eggs by freshly petted chickens.  Getting vet care has been a challange because in order to eat these beautiful creatures we had to disasociate from them by labelling them livestock and if you think about that livestock varies greatly from country to country.   As with any pet ownership we have to educate ourselves and take responsibity to clean up after them.   My birds and property are well cared for and I think the experience of having chickens is great.  People should be allowed to be as self supporting as they can be and ecologically sensitive…

  6. Yes, the right to quality food should indeed be a Charter Right. Store bought eggs do not compare to eggs from backyard hens either nutritionally or flavour-wise. We are what we eat, and we choose not to be a part of a industrialized food system that treats animals like factory production units.The members of the Licensing and Standards Committee in Toronto should be ashamed themselves. City staff had completed a report on Backyard Chickens, and the committee refused to even read it. They continued to base their decisions on misinformation. If Toronto is to be a forward-thinking world class city, we need a serious change in City Council!

    • For sure but with Dr evil as mayor and his mentally defect brother as his henchman and that awful vitrollic career politician known as Paula Fletcher, hard for these things to change … maybe the voters in Toronto need to elect people who are responsive and approachable instead of a bunch of morons trying to cover their own ass

  7. Peter Clarke you are the biggest bullshitter in Canada if you can tell the public with a strait face that your concern is for the welfare of the chickens. I have visited a few chicken farms before free range and commercialized and let me tell you any chicken raised in someones back yard by a caring animal lover will be in much better shape than any chickens that come from a factory farm! if anything everyone should have backyard coops and factory farms should be outlawed!

  8. While I have no objection to the raising of chickens in one’s backyard, I would not want this right to be won as a Charter issue. Under that logic, any municipal bylaw that differs from one city to another could apply as discriminatory and be struck down. Would the result then have to be one national set of municipal bylaws that apply everywhere? Do we want Mr. Harper and the federal government to have that power? Given that the governance of municipalities is a provincial power, could a ruling in Mr. Hughes’ favour not spark a constitutional crisis?

    This issue should remain at the municipal level where it belongs. It is up to people to decide, through their local governments, the levels of personal freedom vs common standards that they want to see applied in their communities.

  9. Given some sensible restrictions.. including limiting the number of chickens based on available space, and your immediate neighbors signing off on their presence, I don’t see any reason why people shouldn’t be able to raise them in their back-yards.

    Even if we take Clarke’s concerns at face value (which I don’t necessarily) the disease and welfare concerns can be easily addressed by the space requirement and by ensuring neighbors know how to complain to animal services if they see the chicken area being kept in poor repair or not being cleaned.  Having animal control officers able to come by and spot-check based on a complaint seems like an entirely reasonable restriction I’m sure no back-yard chicken farmer would really object to.

    And since I’m in Calgary.. perhaps it’s time to dig out my alderman’s address.

  10. Charter Rights don’t extend this far.  Parliament has not enacted “chicken laws” that are harming people.  Period.  Barking (or clucking) up the wrong democratic tree.  Yes, we should have food rights in this country.  Parliament should have a mandate to ensure that they don’t willingly mess up our food system so much that we’re left with nothing nourishing to eat that won’t also poison us.  Good luck with that, though.  Our vote is our last legal recourse, and with international corporations and financiers financing our election rather than the public, public issues are not on the election agenda.  Distraction and voter suppression are what privately funded elections get the public. 

  11. One of the best lines in the article ‘separate them from their excrement’. One or two chickens in a block might not be a problem, dozens of chickens could easily become one. Also, as a neighbour do you want to smell chicken excrement from your neighbour’s back yard? It is bad enough when people don’t pick up after their dog.

    • I have three hens, they are not smelly. With clean bedding, it absorbs odours and moisture. It composts very quickly, and is the best thing to nourish the garden. It’s self-sustaining – feed chickens your kitchen scraps, they in turn put it back in the garden through their waste, and we get the most beautiful, healthy, organic eggs.

  12. I grew up on a farm and raised bantams and guinea fowl. I also did some work as a kid in a big factory egg barn (neighbours had two). Chickens would be in far, far more humane conditions in an urban backyard than they could ever dream of in a large egg operation. To suggest otherwise demonstrates either a complete lack of knowledge, or a vested interest in preventing anyone from doing an end-run around the supply-managed egg & poultry monopoly by raising their own hens. 

  13. There are many in politics, academia, law and medicine. 

  14. Kudos to anyone who raises their own chickens! I find it a challenge to even keep my annual veggie patch in good order so I know there is no future in it for me.

    I wish somebody in my neighbourhood would start up a coop! I’d buy their surplus in a heartbeat.

  15. We as Canadians should not be allowed to keep chickens in our backyards because of the following reasons. For one, chickens are stinky and aren’t very clean. They poop everywhere. Second, chickens are very loud and obnoxious, they cluck every second of the day. Besides the fact that they’re stinky and loud, i don’t think a surburban area isn’t a good place to live. They need room to move around. Section 15.(1) of the charter of rights does not say that you can have special rights depending on where you live in Canada. Therefore, i don’t think that chickens should be allowed in surburban areas.

    • Pretty soon, there won’t be so many rural areas anymore. As the population grows it is important to adapt and embrace urban agriculture. Everyone should have SOME self-sufficiency: grow a small vegetable garden, and raise a few hens in their backyard. I have hens and can speak from first-hand experience, they are not as LOUD as you think, nor smelly. They take 10 minutes of care a day to provide clean bedding, fresh food and water. In exchange, we get fantastic eggs that is far superior in nutrition and taste to store-bought eggs, and is great fertilizer for our garden. Pets with benefits! 

  16. I tnink that there should be no chickens of anykind aloud in backyards because they could be nosiy and smelly but they are no diffrent than dogs. As a matter of fact dogs a even nosiyer but what if the dogs were in a house and they would just go out side to do there bussiness, but chickens in the house would be a better beacause it would not be as nosiy and disturb people. Some chickens need to go when they need to go to so what if they owner is not home and theres monure on the floor. But if they were outside it would disturb people if they were outside of maybe some chicken are laod smelley

  17. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should not be allowed to keep hens in their yards because section 15 of the charter clearly states “Every individual has equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” This doesn’t apply because it does not say without discrimination based on where you live in Canada. Also chickens can make a mess and can be very noisy. This is why I believe Canadians should not be allowed to keep hens in their yards.  

    • Hens are not noisy, roosters are noisy and would not be permitted. We only need hens for eggs. Everybody poops, including chickens, but it is the best nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your compost. They also eats bugs and slugs from your garden. Every gardener should have a few backyard companion like chickens. A dog can be VERY noisy with it’s barking, and will poop too. It comes down to responsible pet ownership. 

  18. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should not be allowed to keep hens in their yards because it would lower surrounding houses property value. The charter states section 15 that everyone is equal and has equal opportunities, meaning that you cannot raise hens if it would lower your neighbors’ ability to sell their home. We as Canadians shouldn’t be allowed to do this because it would disturb surrounding neighbors.

  19. I think that there should be no chickens of anykind aloud in backyards because they could be nosiy and smelly but they are no diffrent than dogs, as a matter of fact dogs are even smellyer and nosiyer, if dogs were just a house dog there would not be as much noice and distubing people they could just go outside just to do there bussiness. Chickens in the house would be better cause it would not disturb the public but if the chickens were out side it would disturb the public and be have noice and smelly

  20. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should not  be allowed to keep hens in their yards because, the charter states in section 15 that every individual is equal before and under the law and without discrimination based on race, national, or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or physical disability, not where they live. Mr. Hughes should not be able to have hens in his backyard because they are loud and can create health issues toward neighbors due to dust from hay. As well I can understand the concerns of people who want to save money but it will cost just as much to feed the hens as it would to buy eggs.

    • You are incorrect in both your reasons: Hen do not make any appreciable amount of noise – certainly much less than a dog! Dust from hay does not cause “hay fever”. In fact people would normally use STRAW as bedding. Straw is dried grass stalks, usually from wheat. If you are allergic to dried grass stalks, I would suggest living inside a plastic bubble, where, as a bonus, you would probably not find any chickens.

  21. I think people should be allowed to keep their chicken in their backyards. This is because section 15 of the charter of rights states clearly: Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. This right should apply for everybody in every city of Canada. If or example we are allowed to have chickens in our backyards in GP, and in Calgary they aren’t allowed. That is discrimination of their rights. There are more sections of the charter that states about this. Another one of them is section 2(b) is says: Freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression, including freedom of the press.

  22. Dear Mr. Hughs i think it is a great idea to keep chickens in your own yard. ther are good and bad reasons though. the good reasons are that u could have great fresh eggs for yourself an d never have to pay for them again, also that you would be able to save tons of money. The bad things are that you would have to clean up the chickens poop,and also that you would get alot of complaits for all the noise that the chickens would make. It also states that in the canadian charter of rights and freedoms that in section 15 states that “subsection 1 does not preclude any law, program or activity that has its objects the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged of race, nationality or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex,age or mental or phyical heath”.

  23. Chickens should not be allowed to live in urban areas.  Chickens are very loud and never stop clucking they also stink not like dog poop but it is more of a foul smell. The people of Canada could be at risk because there is a better chance of getting salmonella poisoning and other diseases like bird flu  .In the charter of rights and freedoms it states in section 15 that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. This has nothing to do with where you live and the bylaws in that urban area.

  24. Mr.Hughes and Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their yards because they provide fresh eggs for people to eat.  Hens are no more noisey or annoying then dogs and when properly taken care of they do not stink any worse then dogs.  Section  15.(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does apply because every individual is equal and has the right to equal benefit of the law without discrimination.  We as Canadians should be allowed to have hens in our yards to have fresh free run eggs to eat.  In my opinion it is better to take care of one or two hens in your yard for eggs, then to buy eggs from a company that has over a thousands hens to take care of.

  25. I don’t think that urban Chicken farming would be a good thing to have because chicken manure gets very smelly when it sits. If the owner is irresponsible and doesn’t clean the hens’ coup out often enough it won’t smell that good. Section 15 in the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms states that every individual is equal without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability. Nowhere does state anything about where you live because if it did everywhere would have the same bylaws.

  26. I think that you should be allowed to keep chickens in your backyard because according to section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. Therefore people living in Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg have the same rights as people living anywhere else in Canada. With that being said, everyone, no matter where you live in Canada, should be allowed to have chickens in their backyards. Another reason why chickens should not be banned is they provide fresh eggs for the families that own them.

  27. The trial involved more than a s.15 challenge. The following sections were challenged: s2a, s2b, s2d, s7, s15 & s27. It also included an assertion of UNHRD Article 25 & the MGA s3a & s5b. This also addresses many of the trial issues: http://www.calgaryherald.com/opinion/op-ed/Hughes+have+right+raise+hens+backyard/6302925/story.html

  28. Chickens don’t belong in cities.  It’s a silly and dangerous fad.

    Next they’ll be raising rabbits….quiet and edible….and cows….quiet and milk….and before you know it we’ll have mini-farms all over.

    Cities spent years getting rid of them….they are noisy, smelly, spread disease,  and then there are the escapees….

    • It’s not dangerous, attack dogs are dangerous. There is a whole urban agriculture movement going on, it’s not new or a fad, it’s going back to our roots.

      • Then move back to the farm, but chickens don’t belong in a city.

    • I think vapid people like you who are so disconnected from their food supply and know nothing about chickens are a fad (or atleast I am hoping so)  Blondie, you may not realize it, but we need mini-farms all over, their is a lack of food in this country and the world, not to mention a severe lack of healthy food.  When the factory food system fails because it is depending on fossil fuels and there is nothing to eat you might have a different point of view .,. 

      I am sure your dog is noisier, smellier and spreads more diseases and escapes more that any chicken would.

      •  I grew up in farming, dude

        Chickens don’t belong in cities

        • “I grew up farming, DUDE”? Totally sounds like the lingo of an elder Emily. Yah right. Your comment is such bs it could only be that of a paid Internet shill, as are many of the obviously cut and paste semi-literate responses against keeping harmless chickens. Never underestimate how much the evil corporations will throw at preventing this simple act from catching on. It digs into they’re profits and control. Grow your own food keep your own animals band together and fight against anyone who tries to stop you by whatever means necessary.

          • Chickens don’t belong in cities.

            You want to play farmer, do it elsewhere.

  29. I think Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their yards if they know how to take care of them, Canadian should have the right to quality food. Section 15 of the charter right states, Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, nation or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age of mental or physical disability. Every individual in Canada should be able to have hens.

  30. In Section 15 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that “Every individual is equal before and under the law… without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
    The suit is related to Section 15 very directly due to the fact that nowhere in that section does it state about discrimination based upon where you are residing in Canada.  Another issue that I find with this is that chickens have the possibility to decrease home value of their home and their neighboring homes within that community.  Mr. Hughes should not be able to keep his chickens in his backyard for the reasons I have posted as well as, the fear of unnecessary noise, smell and sanitary reasons.

  31. Mr.Hughs and Canadians should not be allowed hens because their constant clucking could get loud and annoying. Their scent could also get out of hand. Another reason I think they shouldn’t be allowed is because it’s not entirely fair to your neighbors if you want these creatures and they don’t. If the hens get out or escape their cages, they could potentially ruin you or your neighbor’s yard and make it look trashy and or unkept. Some others factors could be for the sanitary sake of our city. Although the charter states we’re equal, it states we have the right to protection and equality without discrimination against ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental/physical disability, however  it does not mention where we live.

  32. These citizens of Canada should have the right to grow and use hens within the city limits of Calgary.  It clearly states in section 15 of the Canadian Charter rights that, ‘every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefits of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability’. Within the charter it does not state that the citizen(s) should be limited to being able to grow hens in their backyard because of where he or she lives in Canada. Every Canadian has the same right to grow hens no matter what, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. Such as dogs, dogs used to be just animals that were not domesticated and hens and chickens should be given the same chance to integrate into the lifestyle of Canadians.  Like dogs there are many things you have to do to take care of them, but what you get out of hens are more beneficiary, such as producing eggs. All in all hens are beneficiary to the citizens of Canada, no matter where they live in Canada they should be allowed to be grown and raised in the City of Calgary.

  33. I feel as a canadian citizen we should not be aloud to keep chickens/hens in backyard suburban residences. If there was a chicken living beside you, I bet 90% of people would be upset with the smell, and the sudden decrease of house value. As section 15. (1) states, all canadians must be treated eqaulily,  but no where does it state they must be eqaul due to the specific place the live in. Also, if the benifits are so high, they are only good for that certain person.

  34. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their backyard because I believe having chickens in your yard in a coop in not much different than having any other house hold pets. The charter states in section 15 that everyone has the right to be treated equal under the law without any discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age or mental or physical disability. If other provinces have the right to have chickens in there yard.  We have the right as well. In Paul’s article he mentions that in section 7 “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security to the person” and in section 2 everyone has the same fundamental freedoms.

  35. I think Mr. Hughes and the rest of Canada should be allowed to have hens in their backyards in the Charter is says 15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law. If Vancouver can have hens I think anyplace should be allowed as well. Hens don’t stink as much you would think. It saves the hen owners money on eggs. As long as the hens have a place to live and stay I think it should be fine. It does not affect the owner’s neighbors or anyone near the house too much. They are just as smelly as dogs if not more and not as noisy. This is why I think anyone in Canada should be allowed to have hens in their backyards.

  36. Personally I don’t think chickens should be raised in a city or town. According to the of rights and freedoms section 15.(1)  Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. It says nothing about where in you live in Canada or city bylaws.       

  37. Having hens in your backyard should not be such a huge deal. You have a right to live and to eat, and if saving a few dollars on store bought eggs by raising chickens in your backyard is the way then great for you. In section 15 in the charter states that “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benifit of the law and has without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Which means this man should be able to raise hens and have fresh eggs. Hens may be smelly and a tad bit loud, but so are dogs and other outdoor animals, as long as you take care of them and clean up after them i really dont see the problem in keeping hens in your backyard, if it’s allowed in other places like Vancouver. So why not? i believe that it is a great idea to have hens in your backyard.

  38. Personally I don’t think chickens should be raised in a city or town. According to the Charter of rights and freedoms section 15.(1)  Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. It says nothing about where in you live in Canada or city bylaws.       

  39. Mr. Houghes and Canadian citizens should be able to raise chickens in their backyards. The law would then allow people to grow and provide healthy food for their families. Also, it saves people money, cutting back on the price of eggs. Growing your own chickens would offer citizens the benefits of having organic, healthy eggs. Something you don’t get as easily and cheap when just buying store bought eggs. Another great reason for allowing chickens on citizens property is that it is a charter right. Section 15(1) in the charter of rights and freedoms states that “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.” If people in Vancouver and Victoria can raise chickens in their backyards, than not allowing citizens of other cities and places in Canada to do the same would be infringing on their rights as a Canadian Citizen.     

  40. Mr.Hughes should be allowed to keep his chickens because section 15 of the Canadian Charter of 

    Rights and freedoms states “Every  individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the 

    equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without 

    discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical 

    disability.” I do know that chickens are loud, and their droppings have a strong odor, but dogs are the 

    same way. Their barks are disturbing, and their droppings leave a strong odor, also their owners don’t 

    always clean up after them leaving the smell for anyone who walks by.

  41. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their yards because they are a source of food. Some people can’t afford to be paying for eggs all the time so it’s easier to have their own. Fresh eggs are also way healthier than store bought eggs. But on the other side of this argument the charter states, section 15. Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disabilities. I would like to know why Vancouver, Victoria, and Guelph, Ont. Are allowed to have backyard chickens and we aren’t?

  42.                  I disagree with having the right to have hens in your urban backyard.    Hens tend to smell if they do not receive the time love and care that comes along with being an owner of a few of them, the coops  need to be cleaned up regularly in order to keep the smell of manure and urine out of the neighborhood.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 15, does not state anywhere that you are being discriminated against because your city has different bylaws, Chickens tend to get noisy and constantly clucking from minute to minute. I for one am against having hen, chickens, in city limits.        

  43. Mr. Hughes should not be allowed to keep chickens in his backyard. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 15 clearly states. “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” It does not state anything about protection from discrimination based on where you live. Bylaws are a great example of this; bylaws are made to fit the needs of that certain area. My final reasoning to not allow chickens to be kept in backyards is, chickens are noisy and smelly. That is why Mr. Hughes should not be allowed to have chickens ion his backyard.

  44. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their yards because they are a source of food. Some people can’t afford to be paying for eggs all the time so it’s easier to have their own. Fresh eggs are also way healthier than store bought eggs. But on the other side of this argument the charter states, section 15. Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disabilities. I would like to know why Vancouver, Victoria, and Guelph, Ont. Are allowed to have backyard chickens and we aren’t?

  45. Mr. Hughes and the rest of Canada should be allowed to keep hens in the back yard as long as they are maintained and cleaned up after. There are some bonuses like fresh eggs you will now were they came from and they are organic. Another bonus would be that you are getting free healthy food. On top of all of that the charter or rights and freedoms 15. (1) states that; every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, thought discrimination based on race, nationality, or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Therefore Mr. Hughes and the rest of Canada should be allowed to have hens in their back yards.

  46. I believe Mr. Hughes should not be allowed to possess chickens due to Section 15. Of the charter of rights and freedoms, As it Clearly States “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”. As I have quoted the charter you may also notice it does not state That Bylaws should remain the same due to Location, Therefore the Charter is rendered useless in this Legal Issue.

  47. I disagree with the thought of keeping chickens in Canadians’ yard. Although some cities allow you to keep chickens in your yard it is an unreasonable idea to have livestock inside city limits, the first reason is because chickens tend to be very loud and would constantly annoy your neighbors. The second reason is because chickens and hens are not very clean or sanitary. They would always be making a mess. Another reason is because chickens should not be kept in such a small suburban place. Also you should not be allowed because the Charter of Rights does not state that all cities across Canada have the same bylaws, and every city has its own bylaw according to that city’s needs.

    • THATS BECAUSE YOUR A FRIGGIN COMMUNIST MORON!!!

  48. Mr. Hughes and all Canadians should be allowed to farm eggs and keep hens in their own backyards because you can save money because hens lay eggs that you can eat and you won’t have to go to the store every week like my family does just to get 12 eggs for $5 bucks that are organic when you could have fresh eggs right outside in your backyard. Another reason why i am for letting hens be raised in are backyards is that in the charter of rights and freedoms in section 15 (1) that every individual is equal in Canada so if the city of victoria and other places can have hens and chickens why can’t we? They do no harm and a dog is way louder and more of a mess maker then hens plus the charter does not state that you can’t keep pets in Canada and hens I think are considered as pets.

  49. Mr. Hughes and other Canadians should not be allowed to keep hens in their backyard because hens would smell and would be even noisier than a dog would be, because you can train a dog.    According to the Charter of Right and Freedoms, Sec (15) we are all equal under the law, However Mr. Hughes should not look at individual bylaws of each city as a charter right. 

    • I DONT BELIEVE YOU HAVE A BRAIN AT ALL BASED ON YOUR THINKING!!!

  50. Mr. Hughes should be allowed to keep chickens in his backyard. Yes I do agree that chickens are loud but dogs, planes and other animals and vehicles make just as much If not more noise than a few little chickens section 15 of the charter says that “every individual is equal before and under the law” if everyone is equal then we should be allowed if other provinces and cities can I do understand that there are bylaws but if we are equal these should not apply some bylaws have to be applied in order to keep the peace in the city       

  51. I think Paul Hughes should not be allowed to have chickens in his backyard because they are constantly clucking and they also stink really badly. Also if they let chickens in the area what else will it lead to? The next thing would be a pig or even something bigger. According to the charter that Mr. Hughes states, section 15, we are all equal in Canada. It does not say that by laws have to be equal in every city.

    • YOUR A FRIGGIN BLIGHT ON SOCIETY!!@!

  52. In this situation I think you should be allowed to have chickens and hens in your back yard under these circumstances. You should at all times have them fed and watered, in a coup and not able to wander and make a mess in unwanted areas, and the charter states in section 15 that everyone has the right to be treated equal under the law without any discrimination based on race, national or ethicorigion, color, religion, age or mental and physical disability. This section states that if other places in Canada are aloud, then so should Paul.

  53. Yes I think that people should be able to raise chickens in their back yard for the purpose of fresh eggs.  That is as long as they are taken care of, well maintained, and not loud enough to hear. I think that allowing chickens to be raised in backyards can be beneficial to the people. This is because the chickens will bring fresh, healthy, organic eggs. This helps in creating healthy life styles, which is good for the society. Being that Vancouver is allowed to keep back yard chickens, and Calgary is not obeys section 15 in the charter of rights and freedoms. It clearly states “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.”

  54. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should not be allowed to keep chickens in their yards. A few examples or reasons that chickens should not be held captive in back yards are… chickens cluck very often therefore in may keep neighbors awake. Also every living thing has to defecate in addition the feces if not maintained will stink. When hens lay eggs neighbors may ask for free eggs and if all neighbors ask and only some get the eggs it could turn into a problem.  in the charters in doesn’t state that all places have to have the same by-laws Charter 15 from the charters of rights and freedoms states “Based on race, national or ethnic origin color religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” therefore it does not state that every city has to have the same by-laws.

    • THATS WHY YOU SHOULD GO LIVE ON THE MOON WITHOUT OXYGEN!!!YOU MORON YOU!!!

    • “chickens cluck very often therefore in may keep neighbors awake” Chickens go to sleep as soon as the sun goes down, unlike most people. Are you saying you think all noise (lawnmowers, cars, radios, etc.) should be banned ALWAYS in case they “keep neighors awake”?
      “Also every living thing has to defecate in addition the feces if not maintained will stink.” How many dogs, cats, sparrows, starlings, pigeons, crows… live in your town? If you have chickens in your back yard, they stay IN YOUR BACKYARD, and with an appropriate number, you’ll notice your neighbors trash can cooking in the sun long before you even realized your neighbor has chickens in their backyard.
      “When hens lay eggs neighbors may ask for free eggs and if all neighbors
      ask and only some get the eggs it could turn into a problem.” Seriously… so, I’m still waiting — where’s my Christmas present?

  55. Mr. Hughes and Canadians should be allowed to keep hens in their backyards because other than the health risks there doesn’t seem to be another important reason. The health risks could most likely be avoided if the chicken coop owners know information on chickens in case they get sick and what to feed them so they stay healthy. The neighbors might not like the smell and they might complain about the smell and noise but if you reduce the number of chickens you have that could reduce the noise and if you keep cleaning their pen often it will reduce the smell. You could also just have a small area in the town/city for chicken coops. It wouldn’t be a community farm but coops separated where you can rent them from the city or buy them. Section 15.(1) in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under Equality Rights, clearly states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination  and, in particular, without discrimination, based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Every Canadian in Canada is equal, therefore, if one Canadian has the right to own a chicken coop, so does every other Canadian.

  56. In the case above, of Mr.Hughes, I do not agree that hens should be allowed to be in the city because as Canadian citizens, we have the right to equality. However, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15, it mentions the right to equality without discrimination based on race, national and ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disabilities. Nowhere does it say anything about where you live.Therefore, citizens in Vancouver should not be compared/reffered to by people in, for example, Calgary, Toronto, or Winnipeg. If the government lets hens into the city, what’s next? One thing leads to another, and before you know it, theres sheep running around in the city too. Where you live should not define how you live.

  57. I think that we should not have hens in backyards because it can be smelly, loud, and disturb the public. Hens can also eat fruits and vegetables that the owners have. It says in the charter rights and freedoms of equality rights that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Even for me I wouldn’t want any noise, or smell if I was a neighbor that has hens. Bylaws should be separate from city to city.

    • THATS BECAUSE YOUR A TOTAL IDIOT!!!

  58. Dear Mr Huges and court I do not agree that people should not have Hens in their back yards because of the heath of themselves and others as Neighbors and society. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms saying it is a bylaw If people are so crazy about the price of eggs then there must be a problem in our economy, and their intruding on other people’s rights. Just because Vancouver allows it doesn’t mean you do too. It’s like saying if Vancouver when on a certain amount of shopping done in Vancouver would you want to take it to court there also a different “Section” or region than ours.

  59. We as Canadians should be allowed to keep chickens in our backyards because other areas in Canada are allowed to such as Vancouver and Victoria. The rest of the cities are no differentthan those cities so why should we be treated differently? Dogs and cats are allowed yet chickens are alike in the same ways and they are banned. it is unfair to people that want chickens in their backyards and maybe those people can’t afford things likeeggs from grocery stores so they are using the chicken’s eggs for food. The canadian charter of rights and freedoms states in section 15.1 that individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

    • NOW YOU MAKE SENSE NOT LIKE THESE ANTI CHICKEN MINDLESS MORONS!!!

  60. In my opinion Canadians should be allowed to own chickens in
    their backyard because The Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 15.(1) says
    that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to
    the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and,
    in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin,
    colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.  However before we allow all Canadians in Canada
    to have their own chickens in their own backyard each house should require a chicken
    cage in their backyards and must be cleaned once a week to avoid smelly odors.  My point is, we have to be responsible if we
    want to own chickens on our own and to make our neighbors happy from the
    odors.  Also, who doesn’t want free eggs
    and decent savings?

  61. Kudos to Mr. Hughes! It’s sad that big agro has infected this debate with its hypocritical stance concerning health.  While their eggs may be sterile, they treat the hens like cogs in a machine.

    I have chickens and have built over 20 coops in Vancouver.  The number of complaints has been next to none, with most neighbours expressing surprise that people even have hens.  
    It’s unacceptable that someone who wants to practice such a sensible, harmless, and healthy tradition should have to resort to activism.  

  62. I just received my bylaw notice today in Edmonton, a $500 fine and 7 days to remove them. I will be fighting it. My chickens did not even lay $500 worth of eggs last year and I am a single parent living below poverty standards. I grow as much as our food as I can and feel that this is a huge issue with my rights on my property. I pay my taxes and raised 2 sons which were never in trouble. My flock is loved and cared for living free in our yard. My neighbours love them. I am heartbroken and preparing to fight. Please feel free to join in, I hear I have a hell of a ride coming.

    • LETS GET EM PAL!!!

  63. I know that hens cluck and their excrete is quite stinky, but if a reasonable amount is allowed to be kept by a responsible owner, it shouldn’t be a problem. I understand that there are disadvantages to keeping hens in the city, but also everything in life has it advantages and disadvantages. Section 2, 7 and 15 of the charter does not apply to this case because it basically states that every individual is equal under the law and has the right to life & freedom. futhermore, there’s no place found in the charter where it states that bylaws made in a city applies in other cities. Although the charter won’t help much in this arguement, the benefits that come from keeping hens in the city, such as the enjoyment of healthy, fresh organic eggs and yearly savings on eggs, should grant victory to this case in court. Even though keeping hens in the city is not a charter right, Mr Hughes and all Canadian chicken-o-philes should be allowed to keep hens in their yards because it is beneficial both financially and healthwise.

  64. Busted in B.C.!!!  Surrey, B.C. bylaw gives a month to vacate families feathery friends!!!! This article gives us hope! Thanks Paul Hughes for your unwavering effort on this issue!!!

  65. Way to go Paul.  I’m setting up my coop.  Lets make it a national coup de coop.

  66. What happens when they’re old or stop laying eggs? What do you do with the chick that you thought was female and turns out to be a rooster?  And when they escape…?

    This is an old discussion. Macleans covered some of the “downside” of urban chickens years ago…
    http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20080827_90184_90184 

    Failing to consider all the ramifications is just short-sighted…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YppUg07rlk 

  67. I live in London Ontario, you go Mr. Paul Hughes. My daughter Zöe and I had to put our 5 chickens in a farm sanctuary. We are awaiting the outcome of your court case so we can bring our Girls home. They are being well taken care of and we visit them often, at the Cedar Row Sanctuary outside Stratford Ontario, but ever time we visit our girls they try to follow us to our car as they want to come back home with us. (We were in the news last summer in London) For a couple of months they roamed our back garden cleaning up the bugs and such. They brought our garden to life.It wasn’t until our neighbour called the city to complain that their neighbour in downtown London had chickens. (We don’t complain that he parks up to 5 cars a night in his driveway) I look forward to your outcome. Thank you for what you are doing.
    Gabriele Sanio & Zöe ONeill & Muc,GW.,Cluckzilla, Nugget and Max

  68. I don’t think that neighbours should have to agree. Nobody nerds their neighbours’ permission to keep dogs, which are often big, loud, and even dangerous as well as messy.

  69. Very good going Mr. Hughes, I wish to have same in my backyard but I am under surveillance of my neighbors and city for sure.

  70. They should be allowed, end of story.

Sign in to comment.