Lorraine Johnson’s three backyard chickens have flown the coop. Last Wednesday, when the city’s Licensing and Standards Committee indefinitely postponed a motion to investigate legalizing egg-laying hens in the city (and then vowed to crack down on existing chicken coops), she decided she’d had enough.
“It wasn’t that they said no to backyard chickens. They said no to any debate, discussion or information on urban hens. I found that appalling,” Johnson said on Monday morning, showing off her now empty nest, covered in snow. (Her three heritage-breed hens, collectively named Ethel-Mabel-Merman, have been
sent to a farm near Guelph to live out their days.)
The 51-year-old Johnson is a prominent face in the city-chicken movement. She even wrote a book on urban farming, and says she was “busted” for her birds when it came out. She ignored the authorities then, but this time was different. Her friends and acquaintances who own chickens have have been telling her that the crackdown is real, with bylaw officers showing up and giving people 72 hours to ditch their chickens.
“People have the misconception that hens are noisy or smelly, but that’s false. Instead of councillors on the committee requesting a staff report that challenge
these myths with facts, they buckled to public reaction. I think some of those councillors are just chicken.”