In my May Publisher’s Note, I explained that after many months of stalling I was obliged this summer to obtain chickens that my wife, Naomi, wanted. (Although the balance of this note will be written in explicit narrative, for legal purposes I am not actually admitting to harbouring chickens in my Toronto backyard. This article is hypothetical). So we got them.
Most (but not all) of my objections to the exercise did, in fact, bear out. I am the only one taking care of the chickens. The boys will help get them back in the coop after their daily free-range time, but I’m the one cleaning and filling the water tank and the grain feeder and shoveling out the poop. Naomi and Sarah have held a chicken once, each respectively for under a minute, and the latter was for the purpose of a completely contrived Instagram post.
And predators have tried to get at the hens. Unsuccessfully, I’m happy to report – as after two jailbreaks I fixed gaps in the fencing and buttressed the coop from attacks. (…and our puppy Ellie, who loves but terrifies the chickens, has been banned from the backyard when they’re free-ranging).
And as our property is not in one of the wards where the current pilot project runs, I have to rely on the kindness of my neighbours not to call Animal Control. But in this context my concerns were unfounded. All my neighbours are on board with the experiment and are interested. They’ve come to visit and check out the girls, and they seem okay with my setup.
So, what’s it like to have chickens? Well, first off, I like them. They’re quiet, cute and docile. There’s a pecking order. “FloJo”, the fastest of the three, is the leader. Where she goes “Olive Oyl”, the scrawniest, and Trumpy (named in honour of the mocking inflatable chicken that sits across the street from the White House) follow.
We have a routine. Every morning I greet the ladies, open the coop, clean it, and replace the food and water, retrieve the eggs and later shepherd them back in. They wait for me at the door and I hear about it if I’m running late. I’ve gotten adept at catching and herding them. Amazingly they each produce an egg a day. One day we got five – I still haven’t figured out how. And their poop, which fills half a pail every day is amazing fertilizer for my plants. It’s about 20 minutes work daily.
So the $23 question (which is the amortized cost of renting the coop and chickens, per dozen) – Is it worth it? Well as you can see based on cost alone, no. But it’s more about the experience, which I have to admit, I enjoy. It’s been a talking point at parties. The eggs are as fresh as they can possibly be and cook up beautifully. And I’ve become more neighbourly, …at least hypothetically.
This issue of Tonic is full of actual, not hypothetical, information. Read up on the 3rd annual FIT FOR FALL yoga festival on Sept. 10th at the Distillery. We have a new healthy pet column written by Kathryn Anderson and I encourage you to read our two articles on meditation: one provided by our friends at Heartfulness.org and the other pertaining to the connection between meditation and medical marijuana by our columnist Michael Murchison. As always if you have any questions about chickens, FIT FOR FALL, or anything else in this issue of Tonic, please feel free to contact me directly.