However, we are also pragmatic. It takes time to change bylaws. While we are confident we will one day see hens return to Windsor, it won't happen overnight. Did you know that 2012 was the year of the cooperative? When we started our "clucktive" in 2011, we were ahead of the curve!
For some people, it might be a good option to join a cooperative that raises hens to produce free range eggs. It has certain advantages:
- It's an excellent place to start if you're not sure to what extent you want to commit yourself
- It's a good place to learn the basics, especially if there are other members with more experience
- Maybe you live in an apartment, or your property is otherwise unsuitable for a backyard coop
- It can be more cost effective, because of the economies of operating on a larger scale
- Sharing the responsibility of owning hens means you have more flexibility, for example, it can be easier to get away on weekends and vacations if there is someone else to cover coop duties during that time
- The sense of community you can get from knowing other like-minded families is phenomenal.
As with all good things, there are also a couple of potential disadvantages:
- A collaborative coop is likely to be larger than a backyard one, and will likely have more hens. You may discover it's is not quite as idyllic as you imagined.
- When it's your turn, you will likely have more work to do on your day. There will be more poop to clean out, and more feed and water to supply. This might prove challenging for people with disabilities
- Organizing a collaborative involves an element of trust. You would have to trust that each member does their share of the work, and you have to trust the person assigned to control the finances
- You have to be prepared to make group decisions, and this could result in some members having to go along with opinions that they don't fully agree with. For example, the group has to decide what kind of feed to purchase, and what to do if hens become sick.
- Your cooperative might not be as close to your house as you would like it to be. If it is in a remote area, you might have to consider security arrangements that wouldn't be an issue in your backyard.
For a city like Windsor, where urban chickens are not currently allowed, we think urban hen collaboratives would be a great first step. Cooperatives of all kinds are a growing trend at the moment. It's a model that works for some people, and it would be a good way for Windsor to take some first steps towards joining the growing urban ag movement that is sweeping through North America.