Urban Agriculture Kingston

Promoting food sustainability in an urban centre

Article which appeared in Kingston This Week March 28th 2010

http://uakingston.webs.com/A hen in every yard; an egg in every bowl - Kingston This Week - Ontario, CA.mht

A hen in every yard; an egg in every bowl
Posted By KTW Staff
Posted 2 days ago (March 28th 2010)

The buck, hopefully, stops here.

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling for council to amend bylaws to allow for the responsible keeping of a small number of backyard hens.

The group behind the back to the backyard movement, Urban Agriculture Kingston, will host a series of public meetings at Kingston Frontenac Public Library branches.

 "Vancouver, New York, Seattle, Victoria and Chicago are just a few of the North American cities that have recently allowed responsible backyard hen raising — now it's Kingston's turn," says Nathan Putnam, Queen's student and owner of the Living Cities Company, a small community business working to help make Kingston more sustainable, and a partner in the backyard hen campaign.

"A council vote to allow hens is a concrete action on their commitment to environmental sustainability and to food security," says Putnam.

The first 500 petition signatures were to be presented to council at Tuesday's meeting, urging council to amend city bylaws and allow for the keeping backyard hens.

Urban Agriculture Kingston is a working group of OPIRG-Kingston that promotes sustainable food production for the Greater Kingston area. UAK works to make policy changes in governments and institutions that will support increased food sovereignty across the region.

UAK has been holding events and gathering petition signatures since June 2009 to build support for and awareness of its campaign. Over 200 people have attended events which have included two speakers and a film screening of Mad City Chickens.

Mike Payne, co-co-ordinator of UAK, explains that the events are a chance for the public to ask questions, to voice concerns, and to hear about the experiences of other jurisdictions.

"We have consulted with each of the dozen Canadian cities that allow backyard hens, as well as with six others in the USA", says Payne. "We look forward to presenting the overall picture that hens have been incorporated smoothly into the urban environment across North America, often with no nuisance complaints at all."

Urban Agriculture Kingston will host a series of public meetings at Kingston Frontenac Public Library Branches: Thursday, March 25, 7-8:30 p.m., at the Pittsburgh Library, 80 Gore Rd., upstairs (non-accessible); Saturday, March 27, 1-2:30 p.m., Isabel Turner Library, 935 Gardiners Rd., Room A (accessible) and Thursday, April 8, 7-8:30 p.m., Central Library, 130 Johnson Street, Delahaye Room, 3rd floor (accessible).

The meetings will include a short presentation followed by a question-and-answer period. Written comments will be collected and summarized for submission to the City.

For more information, call 613-549-0007.


UAK Delegation to ARCP Committee

UAK Delegation to ARCP Committee April 29, 2010

Good evening – and thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Mike Payne, I am a Coordinator of Urban Agriculture Kingston and am here to advocate for bylaw change to allow backyard hens in Kingston.

Backyard Hens in Kingston is not a cause, it’s just a good idea, without overselling the benefits, we can say that it’s got lots of upside, and no credible downside. It’s not a new idea, in fact having hens in urban areas is a very old idea, but it deserves consideration here today.

Over one thousand petition signatures indicate that Kingstonians think this is a good idea, and the 11 Canadian municipalities and over 300 American ones that allow backyard hens – they indicate that it’s a good idea, too. The Community Roundtable on Poverty Reduction thinks it’s a good idea, and numerous agencies we’ve consulted have not indicated any opposition. These include the MNR, KFLA Public Health, Kingston Humane Society, local veterinarians and local farmers, including a local egg producer. So I encourage you to approach the idea with an open mind, because it’s a good idea, and because the misconceptions that some of your constituents may have around hens are just that – they are misconceptions.

So why are backyard hens a good idea? They offer an affordable, accessible, environmental, ethical, and educational way to get healthy protein. In a very modest, but serious way, henning takes on some of our big problems such as environment, poverty, animal cruelty. No, henning won’t save the world, and no, we don’t expect Bono to play a benefit for us at the K-Rock Centre, but it’s not overselling the benefits to say that henning is a small but concrete way that our citizens can make our city and our world a better place while also enriching their own lives.

A lot of people will hen because the eggs will save them money – between $1/doz and $4/doz. A savings of twenty or thirty dollars a month means a lot to a family that has to stretch their money. Over 35% of Kingstonians are struggling to make ends meet according to the latest Vital Signs report.  Backyard hens will provide an affordable healthy and dependable source of protein. Some people will hen to save money.

Some people will hen because it is a way to opt out of the inhumane battery-hen system that produces 98% of our eggs in Canada. Already, there are henners in this city who are rescuing hens that have laid eggs for a year, have passed their maximum lay, and are on their way to the slaughterhouse.

Some will hen because they want to bake with eggs that will actually make a soufflé that is airy and light from the protein-rich egg whites, or pasta noodles that is orange and rich-flavoured from the carotene-rich yolks.

Some will hen because hens are an eco-pet. Hens eat kitchen scraps and will legitimately reduce municipal waste burden. A town in Belgium just completed its second round of hen distribution. First in Europe but increasingly in North America, it goes like this: first comes the bluebox, then comes the grey box, next is the green bin. Then come the hens.

Some people will hen because it’s a way to close the loop on their home-ecology. They garden, they eat their produce, they compost. This is a way to get great protein into the cycle, to enhance composting, and to fertilize the garden with nutrient rich manure.

Who are these people who will hen? First of all, it’s not everyone, maybe 100 households who will do this, but it will be people from all walks of life. My barber, who has henned in Kingston before. A family of 10 refugees from Congo who live in a small house together with a big yard. A granny from England who has fond memories of her chooks is keen to hen. Parents of young families who are trying to expand their children’s diets will hen. As we know from community gardens, kids who don’t eat carrots, will eat carrots if they grow those carrots, therefore, kids who raise hens will eat eggs. People who are extra conscious about nutrition will also hen.

Some people will hen simply because they want to. And why shouldn’t they be allowed? Henning is an activity that is not substantively different than any other kind of pet owning. In fact, hens make dogs and cats look to be nuisances..

The arguments against hens that are most often put forth are speculative and don’t hold up. Hens are not smelly, not noisy, don’t spread disease, and don’t attract predators or pests.  UAK has compiled an extensive research report that we will make available to staff. We have referenced the month-old Vancouver staff report on henning, which is comprehensive and objective. UAK looks forward to being of whatever assistance in the development of a set of bylaw amendments and guidelines for backyard hens in Kingston.

According to the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, “Hens suffer from a PR problem. People think they are dirty, noisy and smelly. The truth is that a few cared-for hens are cleaner and quieter than one big dog or the three neighborhood cats that poop in the flower bed. What’s more, they provide eggs…”[1] This is the Rupert Murdoch WSJ, by the way, not the Socialist Worker.

The urban hen movement is a part of a growing effort in Canadian cities to solve some very serious problems with our food system.  Solutions to these problems exist in the form of local farms, farmers’ markets, community gardens and, in a small but significant and highly symbolic way, backyard hens.


Kingston City Council can help to bring these concepts to fruition by embracing the need for “local food” in its goal to transform Kingston into Canada’s “most sustainable city.”  By allowing for a small number of responsibly raised urban hens on city lots, Council will follow the successful example of other progressive Canadian cities by strengthening our region’s food security, while ensuring a healthy new food source for Kingston families.


Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.


[1] Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2008, p. A18.