Why did the chicken cross the road? To get out of Cranbrook, of course. Not very funny, I admit, but then again neither was the short-sightedness of Cranbrook City Council two weeks ago when by a six to one margin it voted down the opportunity for city residents to raise a few chickens in their back yards.
And maybe a goat or two. I kid you not. (bad pun)
But now to get serious in the week the whole world is talking about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic our City mothers and fathers sink the hopes of all would-be urban farmers who would like to raise a few hens in their back yard instead of covering it with grass and spraying it with chemicals to make it greener than their neighbors. Or parking their derelict vehicles, not-to-mention, their boats, trailers, ATV’s etc.
Urban chicken husbandry is the latest thing many progressive municipalities are embracing from big cities like Vancouver, Seattle and New York to small towns like Kingston, Niagara Falls and Castlegar, which is now considering it. And why not? Back yard chickens are easy to raise, cost very little, produce better eggs than you can buy in a store and contribute mightily to food security and a sustainable life style, something sadly lacking even in small communities like Cranbrook.
Kids love chickens and they learn from them – and many adults too – that food is not a manufactured product produced in a factory behind the supermarket and comes wrapped in Styrofoam and loaded with chemicals to keep if “fresh.” This realization has been largely lost in modern industrial society where it isn’t “food” unless it comes in a package and is loaded with salt, sugar, trans –fats and artificial sweeteners that keep many of us buzzed all day. And we wonder why obesity is our number one public health issue.
In society today, the link is largely broken between real food such as vegetables you grow in your yard and chickens you may someday hopefully be allowed to raise. I think society is largely worse off for this as is our health. Some cities, like New York, are going even farther than chickens and allowing people to have bee hives in their yards or on their roofs. This is no small matter as North America and Europe are now in the grip of fighting colony collapse disorder.
So why can’t we in the supposedly “Key City” get real about practicing a little back yard animal husbandry, be it chickens, goats or bees. Sure there will be some issues like noise (no cock-a-doodling roosters allowed), smell (although a little earthy barn yard smell would be more pleasant than some odors you smell in this town) licensing, permitting and such. A reasonable husbandry fee would help to pay for enforcement costs and fencing would be an obvious requirement to keep the chickens et al in the yard and not out on the streets pestering people like the #!!@#%$&!! deer.
In addition to laying rich, brown eggs with deep, yellow yokes that produce golden breakfast omelets, chickens are also a valuable source of meat and are the greatest recyclers of unwanted human food on two legs. They love food scraps fresh from the table and supplement that with a bit of cheap grain and you have an animal recycling machine second to none. Yes, chicken waste smells, but if you mix it in your compost pile it produces great manure for your garden next year.
What more do you want Cranbrook? Or should that be Cranbrook Council? And keep in mind that a Calgary resident has launched a Charter challenge against Cowtown’s anti-chicken bylaw arguing that the ban is discriminatory under the Canadian Charter of Rights as well as Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights because growing one’s food in a reasonable way is an “inalienable human right” according to the UN Declaration.
Did it cross the minds of the councillors that voted in favour of the chicken ban that they were messing with an “inalienable human right?” Probably not. But all is not lost because the issue can be brought forward to Council again in six months.