Urban HensTO program paused

In May, 2023 Toronto City Council voted to put the Urban HensTO program on hold until 2025

The most recent staff report recommended that the program be discontinued indefinitely because of the increased spread of avian flu, the cost of the program and the shortage of certified vets. Council voted to revisit the avian flu situation in 2025. 

More info 

Neighbouring cities such as Brampton, and other comparable North American cities, New York City, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton have continued to allow backyard hens. 

Organizations responsible for ensuring public health in light of avian flu, such as the the Ontario Ministry of HealthCanadian Food Inspection Agency and US Center for Disease Control, are united in continuing to allow backyard hens and in recommending sensible biosecurity measures to protect urban flocks and public health. 

What they are NOT recommending is making urban hens illegal.

Is avian flu a concern?

Opponents of urban hens are saying we aren't taking the threat of avian flu seriously. We know it is a pressing concern, but banning urban hens is not the best response. 

How does keeping hens contribute to food security?

Protein can be difficult to grow in home or community garden plots. Keeping hens gives people access to an important protein source (eggs). Any measures that allow people to produce their own food strengthen food sovereignty and give people more control over how they access food. If community chicken programs were allowed, it would give access to henkeeping to people who don't have the financial resources or backyard space to do it on their own.

If the program is expanded, how can the City improve access for residents who don't have adequate outdoor space for hens?

Community chicken programs are successfully offered around the world in schools, public housing and community gardens. These programs give access to people who don't have the space or financial resources, or can't commit to caring for chickens full-time. It also means the programs are run by people who are mandated to meet community needs and may have access to more resources and expertise than an individual homeowner might have.

Animal welfare

Q: Aren't urban hens in danger from raccoons and other wildlife?

A: Urban hens are kept safe from raccoons, foxes, opossums, and other wildlife through predator-proof coops and enclosures ("runs") that protect hens by keeping other wildlife out.

Q: How would legalizing backyard hens contribute to animal welfare?

A: Hen keepers often consider the hens in their care to be companion animals, much like cats and dogs, giving them the same attention and care. Indeed, many hen keepers start keeping hens out of concern for animal welfare, because small-scale urban hen-keeping is the exact opposite of the conditions faced by commercially raised hens, which spend their lives in crowded, small enclosures  with no access to the outdoors and little opportunity to express their natural behaviours. 

Q: There is a shortage of veterinarians who are qualified to care for chickens.

A: If there are more people requiring vets for chickens, more vets will take the training.  

Scroll down to item EC3.4 on the Economic and Community Development Committee archive for submissions and a recording of the meeting. Here's TUG's latest submission. 

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