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From the Editor: A Sense of Community

A sense of community


May 28, 2008
By Kristy Nudds


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It seems the chicken has become the barometer for local food advocates, or as they now being called by the media, “locovores.”

It seems the chicken has become the barometer for local food advocates, or as they now being called by the media, “locovores.”

An article in the May 5th edition of the Toronto Star outlined the recent surge in popularity of the backyard chicken, and how local food proponents in Toronto and Waterloo, Ont., are pushing local governments to allow chickens.

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The article “Getting to Know Your Galliformes” a Toronto woman and her three chickens, which she keeps illegally in her backyard. But more importantly, the article outlines how the “do-it-yourself” food movement is taking off.

And it’s not just in Toronto. This movement is gaining ground in cities like New York, Portland, Chicago and Seattle. Halifax has also seen an interest.  Several months ago I wrote about one Halifax woman’s effort to keep her backyard “pets” and how it ignited a local food movement and a request for bylaw changes there, as people grow ever fearful of where there food comes from.

I believe the local food movement is about community – people want to belong to something so they feel as though they have control over what they and their families eat in a time when food scares and soaring prices have left them feeling helpless. As one gentleman from Waterloo says in the article, “There are broader issues . . . food prices going up, global warming and environmental sustainability, which one family cannot solve.”

The Toronto Star article mentions two websites for backyard chicken owners:  www.backyardchickens.com and www.TheCityChicken.com .  I took a look at these sites and noticed something very important was missing: biosecurity.

I couldn’t find any reference to biosecurity measures on these sites.  They are certainly good starting points for those wishing to acquire a few chicks or for those who already have a few chickens. There is some health information, but there is little or no mention of protecting against disease from visitors, feed suppliers, other animals, etc.

Many backyard flock owners living near commercial poultry have become aware of the importance of biosecurity, but urban owners have not.  I doubt it’s something that has ever crossed their minds, simply because they don’t know about it.

Toronto, for example, prohibited keeping chickens in the city due to health concerns in the early 1980s. If the locovores get their way, it’s crucial they are informed about poultry disease, its spread, and food safety. But where will they find it?

The University of Guelph, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Poultry Industry Council began a Biosecurity Education Initiative project last year and have created a kit for backyard owners called “Keeping Your Birds Healthy – Biosecurity Basics for Small Flocks”. 

It’s an informative kit that outlines biosecurity basics, cleaning and disinfection, how to dispose of dead birds, pest management, a visitor log book, restricted entry sign, and much more. It’s free and I think it would be worth getting a few copies to share with your neighbours, gamebird fanciers or locovores interested in chickens.

As locovores are forming communities, our community must work to educate them. I suspect we will be seeing a lot more people keeping birds, and it’s crucial they stay well informed.