Backyard Hens in Orangeville

February 11, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Martina Rowley

Starting in January, Orangeville is allowing residents living in semi-detached and single-family homes to have backyard chickens. This pleases me immensely! Many cities across Canada and other countries have acknowledged the benefits of urban backyard chickens. Far from turning an urban environment into a giant farm, it has so many good sides that instead of questioning, “why should there be hens in town?” one should exclaim, “why not?”

Some of the benefits of eggs from hens raised on pasture or your backyard compared to factory-farmed hens are that they contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more Vitamins A, D, E, omega-3 fatty acids (the good fats) and beta carotene.

Hens eat your fruit and vegetable food scraps from your kitchen and also devour undesirable insects, like ticks, and generate good garden fertilizer. They are said to be quite affectionate and love attention from their owners. In return, you get fresh, organic eggs right from your backyard. I can personally attest to how deeply satisfying it is to collect your own eggs. Other mental benefits have been shown for example in the UK, where some nursing homes introduced flocks of chickens for residents to look after and proved to have very positive impacts on seniors’ lives.

Here is how it will work in Orangeville. The new Hen By-law 2020-061 is a three-year Pilot program that will allow up to 30 homes to have chickens, and up to three hens per residence are allowed. You should keep at least two hens, as they are social animals. First, you need to check online at for all the requirements. Certain locations are restricted, like homes within a Source Water Protection Area, or within 150 meters of a school or church.

Using the online map, you can search your home’s address to see if you would qualify. You need to show a plan for your coop (hen house) with a minimum required and maximum allowed size. A coop must be in a rear yard, at least 3 metres from any lot line and the residential home and must have electricity. Tenants of a detached or semi-detached home are allowed to apply if they also submit a permission form from their landlord.

After you submit your application and pay the $110 per year permit, there will be a property inspection to ensure compliance with the planned size and placement of your chicken coop. Assuming you pass, you are responsible for keeping your chicken coop clean and free of offensive odours and avoid insect or rodent infestations by securing feed in a tightly sealed container.

Hens must stay in their locked hen coops overnight and within an enclosed hen run during the day (the run can be outside of the main hen house to allow them to move around more but still needs to be enclosed). Hens are not allowed to be wandering about outdoors willy-nilly; not like the poor brown chicken I saw running around a little stressed in Kay Cee Gardens back in November. You are not allowed to sell your chicken’s eggs, manure or meat and must not slaughter or dispose of deceased animals on your property.

Those are the hard facts from the by-law. What you need to know as a potential hen owner is this: Keeping your own hens will be very rewarding but also a lot of work! The pandemic lockdown WILL end at some point and when you wish to travel again, you’ll need a chicken-sitter. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t buy your children or yourself little chicks simply because they are cute little yellow balls of soft feathers and make adorable chirping sounds. They aren’t meant to be a traditional ‘pet’, even if you do get attached to them when they grow up; they are meant to provide food for you (I mean eggs, not the actual chicken).

To bypass the cute effect and because they don’t start laying eggs until they’re around eight to ten months old, hens must be at least four months old when they ‘move in’ with you. Before that, you cannot yet determine whether they are a hen or a rooster – and noisy roosters are strictly verboten.

Consider the cost of building a coop, the feed and general upkeep and your time to keep everything clean, so make inquiries about the real overall cost before you commit.

Keeping egg-laying chickens still has many benefits and what it is not, is stinky or dangerous. Some fears and myths around chicken-keeping are animal-borne diseases, like salmonella. Yes, chicken poop and therefore eggs can contain salmonella on the outside, but if you keep your hands and your coop clean the risk should be no greater than when you handle raw chicken in your kitchen.

As for smells, keeping a coop clean will avoid odours that would disgruntle your neighbours. I smell more stink from dog poop along the grassy verge of our sidewalks from dog-deposits that their owners couldn’t be bothered to scoop up (especially pungent after every snow melt). Noise from chickens is a definite myth when there are no roosters around. Hens just cluck and depending on the species, they will be very or completely quiet. And it is actually quite a soothing sound.

In other towns or cities, the chicken by-laws are very similar. The Urban Hens Toronto pilot program allows residents in four specific areas of the City to have up to four hens and around 60 homes have a total of 182 chickens – really not much considering the size of the city. I like the creative approach by a company called Rent the Chicken that operates across Canada and the USA and which handles seasonal rental and delivery of hens and coops just for the warm months.

Hopefully, the handful of home owners already “harbouring” backyard hens will now get a permit and make it official and for those considering getting your first hens, please be a conscientious owner and good neighbour – keep things safe and clean and be understanding of others’ concerns. Maybe invite your neighbours to see your hens and the coop, and let them taste the difference of fresh, organic eggs. With such a good life, chickens that find themselves in Orangeville will no longer have to deliberate “why did the chicken cross the road” – because they won’t have to.


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