The popularity of laying hens as pets in cities has grown tremendously lately. We must now learn to cohabit with these birds for the good of all.
Although hens are often perceived as pets, their presence and activities are nevertheless part of an agricultural activity containing variable dimensions . This aspect makes the acquisition of hens in cities different from that of a cat or a dog in many ways.
Before embarking on this wonderful adventure of raising laying hens in urban and peri-urban areas, here are three elements to consider in order to promote a harmonious and orderly cohabitation.
Your rights and freedoms
- Does my municipality allow urban hens?
Before you even start your husbandry project, make sure your municipality allows it. Despite the wishes of many citizens, not all cities allow the raising of hens in their area. However, regulations are always subject to change, and this is what we have seen with the growing number of municipalities authorizing hens in cities. Human-animal cohabitation cannot be achieved without this authorization.
- Do I need a permit?
As is the case for other animals, a permit may be required. The construction of the hen’s house is also likely to require a permit. Contrary to what you may think, there may be a limited number of permits that can be acquired in a single city. Be cautious and confirm these details with your municipal authorities.
- What are the standards set by my municipality?
Standards are generally put in place to ensure the well-being and health of the birds as well as to ensure a pleasant human-hen cohabitation. These standards may regulate the hens directly or their environment. The number of hens, the presence of roosters, the design of the hen’s house, the required land area and the sale of eggs are examples of standards that may be in place and that must be followed by all hen owners.
Rights and freedoms of others
- Have I considered discussing this with my neighbours?
Depending on where you live, your neighbours may be close enough to feel some of the consequences of your hens’ keeping. This is especially true if you share your yard with them. It is normal for your neighbours to have some apprehension about noise, odours and other potential impacts. In more than one situation, communication is the key to success and a simple discussion with your neighbours about your project will reassure them. However, be sure to put the necessary precautions in place to reduce inconvenience and promote human-animal-neighbour harmony.
- Could my husbandry pose a risk to my urban or peri-urban neighbours?
Hens can pose a risk to the neighbourhood. There are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Called zoonotic diseases, these can make you or your neighbours sick, depending on the contact they have had with your animals. There is a greater danger if you are hosting people with a compromised immune system. Also, be aware that the risk may be greater if there are other poultry owners or farmers in your area. Some important backyard poultry diseases, such as avian influenza and infectious laryngotracheitis, can spread and infect your neighbours' birds and flocks. The extent of the infection may result in the euthanasia of several flocks in the contaminated area.
- Do I know enough about laying hens to take the plunge?
Unfortunately, passion and love for hens are not enough to ensure their well-being and health as well as a good cohabitation with humans. There is a lot of knowledge to acquire; the nutritional needs of hens, their normal behaviours, air quality, avian diseases, etc. A lot of information is available on the internet but it is not always reliable or in line with your reality. Make sure you know the basics of keeping hens before you take them home and continue to seek out for a credible source of information.
- Who will take care of my hens?
Keeping live animals involves daily care. Christmas, birthdays and summer vacations are no exception. Your animals will need your care 365 days a year, rain or shine. If you must be away, someone who is available and competent should take over. This implies that the same care and attention be given to them to preserve their welfare and to maintain the cohabitation. This is an important element that must be considered, especially since you will have to take care of them for several years.
- Am I aware of my obligations and responsibilities as an animal owner under the Animal welfare and safety act of Quebec?
This law considers that humans have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure the well-being and safety of animals. Thus, the Quebec government has put in place a law outlining the obligations of care and prohibited acts that must be followed by the owner or person having custody of an animal. These must be known in order to be respected.
- Do I know what is a healthy and unhealty environment? Do I know what is a healthy and an unhealthy egg?
It is important to know what a safe environment is and how to maintain it to ensure the best conditions for your hens. Unsanitary conditions can affect the health of your flock and the eggs you eat. Meticulous management of the cleanliness of the hens’ house, feed and birds must be promoted.
- Do you know the basics of biosecurity?
Biosecurity is the set of measures aimed at preventing the spread of contaminants. All hens' owners should have a basic knowledge of biosecurity principles. These principles prevent the spread of disease and help maintain the health of the flock. Hygiene measures, purchase of hens, introduction of new birds, etc., are closely related to biosecurity elements.