Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are your eggs fresh?

It's easy to check an egg for freshness.   Put it in a bowl of water.  If it lies flat on the bottom, it's very fresh.  With the passage of time, air enters the egg, and the broader end will start to float.

Another way to look at it is after you've cracked the egg open.  See how part of the white of this fresh egg is almost gelatinous, and the yolk is nicely rounded:

After two weeks, eggs are noticeably less fresh, though still usable.  The USDA recommends using eggs within 3-5 weeks of purchase.

According to the USDA

An egg can float in water when its air cell has enlarged sufficiently to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use. Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked.

Want to learn more?  Head over to Mother Earth News to read an interesting article on an elaborate multi-month egg preservation experiment.

Old MacDonald had a farm

The commercial poultry industry probably doesn't really care too much if people have backyard chickens.  After all, if the community gets excited about eggs, it could be good for sales in general.  Besides, only a small minority of people want to do it.

What they don't want are questions about what's going on behind those closed egg farm doors.  Serious questions about animal welfare and antibiotic usage can lead to pressure to reform or even end practices that currently go unchecked, which will have an impact on the bottom line. 

Undoubtedly there are two sides to every story, but one angle is conveniently overlooked by most people who happily pick up a tray or two of cheap eggs when they come on sale at the grocery store.  While the public is justifiably outraged when stories emerge about pet abuse and cruelty, the life of animals on factory farms is nothing like the idyllic farmlife we teach our children about when they are young.  And the scale is in the billions.

This is the other side of the poultry industry, the uncomfortable side we seldom see, and most of us don't think about too deeply:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Urban chickens can lead to falling property standards

That's what at least one Windsor councillor believes.  She stated this fear at this week's council meeting, in justifying her decision not to back the formation of a working group to explore the viability of backyard hens in Windsor.

She's not alone in believing this could be a problem, so let's explore what it's about.

It's probably due to a preconceived image of chicken farmers as urban hillbillies, with ramshackle coops made of piles of junk.

That's not actually the way the vast majority of urbanites want their backyards to look.  There are many different coop designs available, and some of the higher-end ones are anything but shabby.  Take a look at this snazzy Eglu, for example:
Many of the proponents of urban hens are sophisticated, educated people, with  professional qualifications and respectable careers that make them valuable assets to the community in which they live.  They are certainly not interested in living in the squalid conditions often conjured up by urban hen opponents.

One thing pretty much everybody with an opinion on the matter seems to agree on is that only a small minority of residents are actually likely to want to own chickens.  So if a tiny number sign up,  how big of a risk can this really be?  

In my opinion, it's rather a flimsy pretext for not wanting to explore the idea in the community in a transparent an open manner, as originally recommended by the Licencing Committee

I suspect (Councillor Gignac can correct me if I'm mistaken) what she really means is that she believes scruffy backyard coops will lead to falling property prices.  In a city that is struggling with some of the lowest the house prices in the country, the last thing anybody wants is for them to fall any further.  What sane person doesn't want to live in a nice place?

But I would suggest a different angle:  house prices are falling because developers have been more interested in making their money on suburban tract housing than exploring interesting urban concepts, and now we're stuck with a glut of identical homes in identical suburbs.  

House prices also fall because of people leaving town to seek their fortunes elsewhere when they can't find work here. 

Usually it's the younger people who leave.  The effect of each individual loss is hard to notice, but collectively, over time, visible patterns emerge:  a hollowed out downtown core, and numerous identical suburban townhouses with for sale signs on their manicured postage stamp sized front lawns.  Others would list theirs on if only they believed they had a chance of getting a decent price.   Over time, this is the kind of stuff that causes people to lose pride in their neighbourhoods.  Why bother?  becomes the mantra.  

That is how property standards and prices fall.

I would love to know how many of Windsor's older residents (the demographic group that's generally the most averse to backyard hens) have adult children who have flown the coop, to use a pun, to go live in more vibrant cities.  What reasons did they give for leaving?  What percentage felt Windsor doesn't have anything for them, that the city's management is too staid?  How many of them voted in the last election?   If they didn't, how many of them shrugged their shoulders and said why bother?

Maybe people would be encouraged to stay if they felt their opinions and ideas made a difference, and if the city were less resistant to trends that make other cities more exciting to live in - urban hens being just one of many examples.  

If there was more of a local buzz about liveability, and we weren't afraid to strike committees that encouraged public debate, people might be wanting to move back to Canada's southernmost city.  Then we could see a positive impact on house prices.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Donate to the Canadian Right to Food Trial Legal Defense Fund

Please take a moment and donate to the Canadian Right to Food Trial Legal Defense Fund. All funds received, no matter how large or how small, will go to trial expenses.

If you're wondering what this is about, Paul Hughes is the founder of the national CLUCK organization and is involved in a legal challenge on the basis of our human right to produce food, which all started when the city of Calgary charged him for contravening the bylaw on urban poultry.

Read the trial brief here.
Read the UN Human Rights Declaration on Food here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

CLUCK Windsor, Urban Chickens, Household Food Security, Local Food Systems & Urban Ag

Attn Windsor City Council and Citizens of Windsor

CLUCK is a national ad hoc organization that promotes the responsible and ethical raising of Urban Chickens. Presently, CLUCK has representatives within 15 chapters across 8 provinces, with a total membership of 3,200.

CLUCK Windsor is one of our chapters and CLUCK Canada supports their effort to pursue a fact and knowledge based assessment approach to the issue of Urban Chickens.

The City of Windsor has the opportunity to provide municipal leadership in the area of Household Food Security by endorsing and supporting an Urban Chicken Pilot Project that is focused on the real time analysis of small scale livestock in an urban environment. 

The collection of empirical data, and subsequent analysis, will provide citizens, decision-makers and elected officials with the information required to make a fact based decision on the matter of backyard hens. 

The citizens of Windsor will be well served by choosing a knowledge based approach to the issue of Urban Chickens. I encourage Windsor City Council to vote favourably to conduct an Urban Chicken Pilot Project.

If we can provide any assistance whatsoever to the City of Windsor in this respect, feel free to approach our CLUCK Windsor chapter. Alternatively, my contact information is also included in this missive. 


Paul Hughes
President, CLUCK Canada

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Urban Hen Supporters Hope for Municipal Eggucation

(Windsor, ON)  Urban chicken supporters return to City Hall today (Monday, January 24th) with the hope that council will strike up a working committee to examine the pros and cons of backyard hens. The issue had been shelved previously but media attention and an outcry of public support has brought the topic back to the agenda.

The issue has gained momentum with the backing of some credible support including Dr. David Sion, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Windsor Regional Hospital, who emphasizes the need to address the interconnection between education, poverty, health issues, and backyard food production.

In a letter supporting urban chickens, Taras Natashak, Federal NDP Candidate for Essex says, “I am confident that given the appropriate attention and consideration, the benefits of urban food production can be fully realized as a direct advantage to this region and its citizens. With proper regulation, training, guidelines and enforcement, a safe and valuable model of production can be achieved.”

Adriano Ciotoli of WindsorEats says, “It’s about listening to constituents and hearing what they have to say about the issue. People are becoming increasingly concerned about the origins of their food.  They want to be able to put food on their table they can trust.”

Members and supporters of CLUCK (Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub) have been contacting their councilors this week, asking them to allow the issue of urban chickens to be examined in detail. Many supporters have come forward to say they do not want to have chickens of their own, but believe it’s a positive step for the city and those who want to grow their own food. In a letter of support from Prince Edward Island, former Windsor resident, Joshua Biggley, added that ideas like this can create opportunities to welcome creative, influential and motivated individuals back to the city.

CLUCK is a grass roots group hoping to get the issue of allowing backyard hens added to City Bylaw 8156, which was enacted in 1985.  The bylaw currently allows for residents to own 2 dogs, 4 cats, 2 rabbits, and 80 pigeons, but prohibits ownership of domestic fowl.

CLUCK is careful to point out that roosters are not needed for egg production so their request is therefore limited to hens. They also stress that participation in urban chicken ownership will be a minority of a minority.  ”If the bylaw was amended there wouldn’t be chickens in everyone’s backyards.  Only people who are very serious about the issue will make the investment in raising their own eggs.”

An interesting array of delegates is listed to speak at council, including CLUCK members, local residents, a University professor, and a veterinarian with known ties to the poultry and egg industry.

Pro-chicken residents hope the recent outpouring of grassroots support and extensive paperwork available on the issue will be enough to convince City Council that this is a topic that should be examined further.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Costs of Chicken Ownership

As you can see from the list below, which was put together by CLUCK, the cost of chicken ownership is highly variable.   Many costs can be reduced significantly if you are handy with recycled and reclaimed materials.  Or you can choose the upmarket route and buy everything new.  It's up to you.

One time Costs:

Chicken Coop ($0 to $700)
:  A chicken coop could be built from salvaged items from your home, recycling centers or donations. You can buy pre-made coops or plans and then make your own. An existing shed can be converted into a spacious coop.

Chicken Feeder ($0 to $6)
:  This could be a repurposed dog dish or a galvanized poultry feeder tray from a feed store.

Waterer ($0 to $100)
:  This could be an upside down bucket style fount or an upside down umbrella style hanging watering bowl. In the winter, it is necessary to keep the water from freezing so you need a heated fount, a heater to place the fount on, or a heater to place in the water. A heated dog water dish is available at pet store. 

Hi-Low Temperature Gauge (optional $35)
:  Proper temperature is necessary for the chicken coop to ensure healthy growth and well-being. Some chicken keepers feel more comfortable when they can see a temperature reading and a high-low thermometer can tell you how cold it gets in the middle of a cold night or a hot day. Feathers are naturally insulating so combined with a well insulated coop, you may only need to add a heat source during extreme cold or simple ventilation on a hot day.

Heating Sources ($0-$75)
An infrared bulb, caged socket, extension cord and outdoor timer should be sufficient for heating a coop in very cold weather. An electricity providing solar panel hooked up to a bulb would offset electricity charges. A homemade convection air solar heating system could be created to heat the coop with an electric backup. A very small wind turbine could be used to supply heat to a coop.

Light Source ($0-$55):  
Layers need approximately 15 hours of light a day in order to keep laying and an artificial light source may be needed in the darker winter months depending on your chickens. If the weather is mild, solar garden lamps could be used around the coop. If weather is cold and the chickens need to be put in the coop when the sun goes down, then a light bulb with a timer could be used on the closed in portion of the coop. 

Chicken Tractor ($0 to $200)
:  It is optional to use a temporary shelter like a play pen for your chickens to roam the yard and condition the grass. Some owners ensure that their yard is fenced and let their chickens roam freely whereas others prefer to enclose their chickens in a portable enclosure so that they can leave the chickens unsupervised yet protected from land and air predators. Tractors can be built for yourself or ordered or you can put up chicken wire around any gaps in your fencing.

Continual Costs:

Chickens ($0 to $15 each)
:  Costs vary with chickens being more expensive depending on how old they are and if they have been sexed. Different breeds cost different amounts. Shipping costs vary depending on how far away you are from your chosen hatchery. Costs are ongoing if you replenish you older layers with new pullets.

Feed ($0 to $1/week/chicken):   
A no-cost method to feeding chickens would include kitchen leavings, insects, weeds, and home grown grains made into homemade feed. Ask at your local restaurant, cafeteria or grocery store for scraps or ask for lunch leftovers at your place of work.
Feed from a farming supply store would cost approximately $1/week per chicken. Different kinds of feed are available for starter chicks, growing pullets and laying hens. Chickens vary the amount they eat according to age and the outside temperature.

Grit ($0 to $10/lifetime):  
Chickens need grit to grind their food because they have no teeth. Grit can come from a dirt floor, lawn access when in a chicken tractor, a chunk of sod placed in the coop or purchased grit which is small pieces of sharp gravel the size of cracked peppercorns.

Bedding ($0 to $3/week)
:  Organic material used to absorb urine, feces and spilled water will help keep the chicken’s feet dry. Bedding can be wood shavings, shredded newspaper, dried corn husks, hemp, straw or hay, dried leaves or a combination of them. Bedding needs to be cleaned out regularly or fresh bedding placed on old for a deep pile of bedding. Hay is preferred by chickens because it is the leavings of grain fields and has some remaining grains to eat. Make sure your bedding does not get wet and moldy.

Water (varies)
:  Tap water can be given to chickens although clean rain water could be collected off the roof of your coop.

Cleaning Supplies
:  A good hosing off of the coop once a year with a spray of a vinegar or environmentally friendly cleaning solution is required.

Egg Cartons ($0-$10)
Save a few of your foam or plastic egg cartons for you and wash after emptied each time; ask your family and friends to save them for you in case yours become damaged. Camping supply stores sell durable hard plastic egg holders.

Veterinary Care:  
Costs could include vaccinations, medication for injuries or being put down ($55). Costs could also include postmortem testing to detect Avian Flu if required in the future by government agencies. 

:  Just like with dog ownership, a license may be required in the future for legal ownership.

:  Some people use leg bands which are about $0.12 each although they can cause the chicken to get caught and injured. The SPCA recommends that chickens get a microchip installed to ensure a lost chicken is returned to the owner (~$60). Some owners take detailed photographs of their chickens to ensure they can identify them and contact the CLUCK club or the SPCA to try to locate their chicken. Some owners consider the cost of replacing the chicken vs. identifying one and consider a lost chicken as gone forever. 

Vacation ($0 to $30/day)
Asking a neighbor to look after your chickens (in exchange for the eggs they produce) or getting a house sitter to care for your chickens while you are on holidays would be necessary as the chickens need daily care. 

Slaughter ($3/each)
Once your layer is past production, you may want to slaughter it and eat the meat. Humane killing of the chicken and safe processing of the meat is a task that can be done well by an abattoir.

UN Human Rights Declaration on Food

The UN Human Rights Declaration guarantees our right to adequate food, but this most certainly doesn't simply guarantee that we won't go to bed hungry.  Let's take a closer look:

8. The Committee considers that the core content of the right to adequate food implies:

  • The availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture;
  • The accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights.
    9. Dietary needs implies that the diet as a whole contains a mix of nutrients for physical and mental growth, development and maintenance, and physical activity that are in compliance with human physiological needs at all stages throughout the life cycle and according to gender and occupation. Measures may therefore need to be taken to maintain, adapt or strengthen dietary diversity and appropriate consumption and feeding patterns, including breast-feeding, while ensuring that changes in availability and access to food supply as a minimum do not negatively affect dietary composition and intake.

    10. Free from adverse substances sets requirements for food safety and for a range of protective measures by both public and private means to prevent contamination of foodstuffs through adulteration and/or through bad environmental hygiene or inappropriate handling at different stages throughout the food chain; care must also be taken to identify and avoid or destroy naturally occurring toxins.

    11. Cultural or consumer acceptability implies the need also to take into account, as far as possible, perceived non nutrient-based values attached to food and food consumption and informed consumer concerns regarding the nature of accessible food supplies.

    12. Availability refers to the possibilities either for feeding oneself directly from productive land or other natural resources, or for well functioning distribution, processing and market systems that can move food from the site of production to where it is needed in accordance with demand.

    13. Accessibility encompasses both economic and physical accessibility

The principal obligation is to take steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the right to adequate food. This imposes an obligation to move as expeditiously as possible towards that goal
15. The right to adequate food, like any other human right, imposes three types or levels of obligations on States parties: the obligations to respect, to protect and to fulfil. ... The obligation to respect existing access to adequate food requires States parties not to take any measures that result in preventing such access. The obligation to protect requires measures by the State to ensure that enterprises or individuals do not deprive individuals of their access to adequate food. The obligation to fulfil (facilitate) means the State must pro-actively engage in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilization of resources and means to ensure their livelihood, including food security. 
19. Violations of the right to food can occur through the direct action of States or other entities insufficiently regulated by States. These include: the formal repeal or suspension of legislation necessary for the continued enjoyment of the right to food; denial of access to food to particular individuals or groups, whether the discrimination is based on legislation or is pro-active; 

What do you think?  In your opinion, do grocery store eggs, produced by hens that never see the light of day, provide you with adequate nutrition as guaranteed by the UN?

Are you comfortable that those eggs are free from adverse substances and that proper steps have been taken to prevent contamination?

Do people with accessibility issues, especially if they buy their groceries at convenience stores because there is no grocery store within a 20 minute walk, enjoy sufficient access to healthy nutrients? 

And lastly, shouldn't our municipal leaders, just like our national leaders, be open to the possibilities for feeding ourselves directly from our own productive land in sustainable ways that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights as guaranteed by the United Nations?

For more on this, you might wish to read about CLUCK founder Paul Hughes legal challenge on this very subject:  Link to Trial Brief

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Contact your Councillor Today - 3 easy steps!

January 24th is an important date to note.  After voting late last year to “indefinitely defer” the matter of urban chickens, Councillor Dilkens has reopened it for discussion for next week’s Council meeting.  He is already on the record for his view that urban chickens are “clucking ridiculous”, so it is extremely important to make sure Council hears loud and clear from us.  This may be our last chance to be heard.

There are 3 easy ways in which your participation can make it happen:

Lift the phone and leave a message for your councillor.  Better yet, call them all.  The numbers are below.  You don’t have to say a lot.  Just let them know who you are and that you are in favour of urban chickens.

Email your councillor.  Just as easy, email them all at the same time.  For your convenience, we’ve done the work for you!  All you need to do is copy and paste the string of email addresses at the bottom of the page into your address line.   Again, the script can be very simple. 

Join us at next week’s Council meeting.  The meeting will be next Monday, January 24th, and it starts at 6pm.  We are hoping for a great turnout.  You won’t have to speak (unless you add your name to the delegation list before the 21st – call 311 to set it up), but your attendance in the audience is very important.

We need to show council that CLUCK has the broad community support that we already know it has.  We are not the crazy people that some have tried to suggest we are.   We are educated, well-read and we are urban chicken supporters for a number of well-thought out reasons:  we care about food security and sovereignty, eating food that is locally, sustainably and humanely produced, reducing our food miles, providing needy people with quality sources of affordable food, and reversing the longstanding processed food trend which has steadily separated consumers from understanding where their food comes from.

Let Council know where you stand!  Your message can be a brief one-liner, or you can explain your point of view in more detail – it’s all up to you.  The important thing is that you lift the phone or email today.

Telephone contact information
Mayor:   (519) 255-6315
Drew Dilkens - Ward 1: (519) 250-4607
Ron Jones - Ward 2:  (519) 252-1005
Fulvio Valentinis - Ward 3:  (519) 977-5067
Alan Halberstadt - Ward 4: (519) 973-8323
Ed Sleiman - Ward 5:  (519) 944-7058
Jo-Anne Gignac - Ward 6:  (519) 945-4434
Percy Hatfield - Ward 7: (519) 739-9575
Bill Marra - Ward 8: (519) 948-0900
Hilary Payne - Ward 9:  (519) 972-6071
Al Maghnieh - Ward 10:  (519) 551-8003
One step email – copy and paste the entire list into your address line,,,,,,,,,,

Email contact information
Drew Dilkens - Ward 1:
Ron Jones - Ward 2:
Fulvio Valentinis - Ward 3:
Alan Halberstadt - Ward 4:
Ed Sleiman - Ward 5:
Jo-Anne Gignac - Ward 6:
Percy Hatfield - Ward 7:
Bill Marra - Ward 8:
Hilary Payne - Ward 9:
Al Maghnieh - Ward 10:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Summary Document

CLUCK Windsor has produced a document explaining its position on urban chickens and it is available for download. This should be especially useful if you know anybody who doesn't necessarily live on the internet, like many of us do.

Feel free to print it out, pass it around, and do bookmark the link:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Natural History of the Chicken

Converting chicken manure into black gold: How-To

Chickens Produce Eggs and Manure.  Chicken manure can be one of the greatest assets for a home gardener.  Although chicken manure is too strong to be used raw on your flowers or vegetables, it can be composted and converted to “black gold”.   If used without composting it could damage roots and possibly kill your plants, however, once it is composted chicken manure is:

  • A good soil amendment, chicken manure adds organic matter and increases the water holding capacity and beneficial biota in soil.
  • A good fertilizer; chicken manure provides Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium to you plants (more than horse, cow or steer manure).
 Read about how to do this at Seattletilth.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On the subject of vermin

Some Windsorites object to urban chickens because they believe they will make an existing urban vermin problem even worse.  While it is true that vermin can be attracted to chicken food, this problem can be avoided by ensuring all food is properly packed away at night so rats can't get to it.  As for predators wanting to eat the chickens themselves, the best way to avoid that one is to ensure the coop is thoroughly enclosed.

However, we don't all live in areas where there are rats roaming about. One of the few advantages of living in neighbourhoods that are a little further away from downtown, is that suburban yards tend to be larger, and many of us have never had to worry about rats rummaging through our trash. It's doubtful that rats would be an issue to those homeowners if backyard hens were allowed.

Besides, as this Grist article points out:

It is not something that causes a nuisance to anyone except for the chicken owner.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let your Councillor know what you think

January 24 is approaching fast and if you haven't done so already, we're asking that you contact your councillor to let them know where you stand on the urban hen issue.

Eddie Francis -  Mayor
350 City Hall Square West
P.O. Box 1607
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 255-6315
Fax: (519) 255-7796

Drew Dilkens - Ward 1 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 250-4607

Ron Jones - Ward 2c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9 6S1
Phone:  (519) 252-1005

Fulvio Valentinis - Ward 3 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 977-5067

Alan Halberstadt - Ward 4 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, Ontario
N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 973-8323

Ed Sleiman - Ward 5 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 944-7058

Jo-Anne Gignac - Ward 6 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, Ontario
N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 945-4434

Percy Hatfield - Ward 7 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 739-9575

Bill Marra - Ward 8
 c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 948-0900

Hilary Payne - Ward 9 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone:  (519) 972-6071

Al Maghnieh - Ward 10 
c/o 350 City Hall Square W. Suite 203
Windsor, ON  N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 551-8003

To see maps of each ward, visit Approved Ward Boundaries.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Windsor could learn from Springfield

After Springfield, Missouri, legalized urban chickens in 2010, residents haven't so far been flocking out en masse to acquire a backyard brood of their own.  Some are expecting to wait until the spring to get started, but quite possibly this will remain a passion for a small percentage of the population (much like pigeon ownership, which is allowed in Windsor, to the tune of 80 birds per resident).

To put things in perspective, Springfield itself is a city  about 3/4 the size of Windsor, though the wider metropolitan area is roughly equivalent in population to Essex County.

The only number the city keeps tabs on are complaints the city receives about people who have too many chickens, people who keep roosters or people who don't follow city guidelines on coop construction.

Since the new rules went into effect in October, the city has received 11 complaints.  That number is small compared to complaints filed about dogs and cats.

Not requiring people to tell the city they are keeping chickens might prevent keeping tabs on the number of fowl in the city, but it means city employees have to do less work keeping tabs on chickens, he said

What can we learn from this?

Well, for a start, we know this is an important issue to many people (for example, CLUCK Windsor has 220 members as of today), so the first thing to realize is that ignoring it is not a good idea.

Secondly, despite wild claims to the contrary, the vast majority of people who would like to raise hens are responsible people.  They don't mind waiting and doing it properly.

Thirdly, in spite of all the media hype the matter has received since it came before Council, it needs to be kept in proportion.  A working group does not have to be large, convoluted and costly.  Its work can be done efficiently by learning as much as possible from other cities that have already gone through the process.  We don't have to reinvent the wheel.  And there are a number of volunteers who have already come forward to help with the process.

Lastly, a sensible way to change the bylaw to allow backyard hens is to lay down few administrative requirements.  For example, requiring each coop to be inspected by a city official adds bureaucratic costs that aren't in taxpayers' interests.  It doesn't make sense either, since cats' and dogs' living quarters don't have to be inspected as a requirement of ownership.

If the question of backyard hens is approached sensibly, it doesn't have to be a costly process, either for the working group that was recommended by the city's Licencing Commission, or afterwards.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

CBC Marketplace: Great Eggspectations

The nutritional data above comes from a 2007 Marketplace documentary, which you can view by clicking the link above.  100g is roughly equivalent to two eggs. The eggs used in the tests were purchased at grocery stores in Vancouver.  Here in Ontario, free range eggs are not available at the grocery stores at all.

The graphs show just five of the nutrients tested, and it's interesting to see the differences between different types of eggs

The full results are shown in the table below, and come from the same source:

Click this image to enlarge
Notice that the Omega 6 fatty acids (the "bad" ones) seem to correlate somewhat with the Omega 3 fatty acids.  This is what Wikipedia has to say about them:

Some medical research suggests that excessive levels of n−6 fatty acids, relative to n−3 (Omega-3) fatty acids, may increase the probability of a number of diseases and depression.

Modern Western diets typically have ratios of n−6 to n−3 in excess of 10 to 1, some as high as 30 to 1. The optimal ratio is thought to be 4 to 1 or lower..

Excess n−6 fats interfere with the health benefits of n−3 fats, in part because they compete for the same rate-limiting enzymes. A high proportion of n−6 to n−3 fat in the diet shifts the physiological state in the tissues toward the pathogenesis of many diseases.

The following chart shows the ratios of these two fatty acids, calculated from data in the table above: