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Welcome to the chickenhouse…

The chicken coop

Chicken coop? Henhouse? I like ’em all. This weather-beaten little building has been empty for a while, but a little fix-up and it’ll be ready to go. You can see the electricity cable and water hose snaking out at the top left of the pic. All the modern conveniences! The last tenants, three years ago, were half a dozen turkeys, lead by crazy Tom, an increasingly aggressive male known for a flying drop kick that could stagger a grown human. I didn’t have any close encounters with Tom, although I was curious. Before that, when I first started the garden five years ago, a dozen or more incredibly colorful ornamental chickens roamed the barnyard, darting out of hedges, zipping under fences, you never knew where they’d pop up. These were all, like the goats, kinda pets, and were eventually given away. Now, the loose plan is to get, well, WORKING chickens, for meat and eggs. At first, it won’t be directly part of the organic veggie garden, more of a side project that I’ll do with Bob. We were going to start last season, but that wound up on the still-to-do list. Yesterday, I took a quick look at the chicken-raising regulations—here in Ontario, there is a quota system that requires buying permits to raise chickens, with an exception for small numbers, and I imagine it’s similar everywhere in North America. Oh, well, more on that as it happens!

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18 Comments

  1. Yellow Dog Farms

    Please pardon my ignorance, but what is a “chicken quota province”, or is this an example of Tiny Farm Blog humor?

    Carl

  2. Carl: I made the quota situation clearer. I thought it was worth mentioning. Although it won’t affect getting a few dozen birds this year, it’s part of a larger issue with rules and regulations that I’ve been kind of avoiding here as I hadn’t run into it yet in the day-to-day. There is an increasing mountain of regulation that can really limit small farming and any sort of small-scale commercial food production. Like, I finally started reading about NAIS in the US. This stuff can be kinda overwhelming and depressing at the same time, a great combo… But things always work out.

  3. Hi Mike,

    I have really enjoyed your blog throughout the year. Both my wife and I find it very inspirational as we build our own ‘tiny farm’ here in the North of our province. Chickens are a great addition to the tiny farm, and in S. Ontario you have access to the processing facilities to legally sell up to 300 broilers. 99 laying hens may be kept in our backyards without infringing on the holy ‘quota’, but in order to sell those eggs in the farmers market they must be ‘graded’ at a licensed egg grading station. However the ungraded eggs can be sold from the farm gate as far as I know. A small scale vegetable farm is mercifully exempt from the ‘marketing boards’ and their attendant regulations, the fact of which I am sure we are both grateful. Chickens can add beneficial manure to the compost pile as well as eggs and meat, but they do have the unwanted ability of putting one on the ‘radar’ of the ‘powers that be’. Chicken feed, for example, is monitored as to who purchases how much, where they live and how often they buy it. Every sack that leaves our local feed stores (N. Ontario) has to be accounted for since the inception of the monitoring program last spring.
    Of course you could grow all your own feed, or buy the ingredients from neighbors and mill it yourself, probably saving money in the process and certainly learning a lot. But thats a different kettle of fish….

    Happy New Year!

  4. Matt B: Thanks for the rundown! Tracking FEED by the bag… Oh, man! Is that like looking for pot growers by tracking electricity usage, the war on illegal chickens?! Earlier, I spoke to our local feed supplier, you order commercial chickens through them too, they require a form filled out when you buy, and there’s apparently a central database that this stuff eventually gets entered into, so you if you’re honest on the forms, you can’t go around to different suppliers and buy past your 300 exemption quota. But then I read online that you don’t have to SIGN the form (that’d be Form 300, formerly Form 36…how straightforward), and I don’t get what that’s about. I understand the supposed larger context: it’s all regulation fall-out from rules designed to protect urban masses from unscrupulous, international food conglomerates, trickling down to bollocks up local small producers. That doesn’t make it any better or even that understandable. It’s plain unsettling…

  5. Just found you blog today. Love the farm photos.

  6. […] mostly for fun. So I don’t really have a PLAN. We have room for about 50 birds in the current chickenhouse set-up, so it’s not such a big thing. We’ll see come April! Tags: birds, catalogs, […]

  7. Anna

    I grew up on a small hobby farm and I am hoping on going just a bit bigger with my own place.  I know that people in other provinces; specifically BC and Alberta, have successfully lobbied for small farmers to have the right to sell ungraded eggs at local farmers markets providing the eggs were clearly marked “unchecked” or something similar. 

    I’m wondering if there is, or has been a similar movement in Ontario.  Could be worth looking into for those of us, both producers and consumers, who feel the rules are out of touch with reality.

  8. Kelly

    I don’t have a farm but I do have chickens. I am in a very rural area and people have horses and just about any other type of animal.

    I can’t help but think that a big part of the ordinances is that it is being pushed to the people to stop people from possibly raising a hundred birds and selling eggs or meat locally. This would rob the government of a few pennies in tax money. So, the gov’t teaches that it is bad to raise them for some reason, people by into it, and another law that shouldn’t be goes into effect.

    It is done with all types of small scale commercial fishing.

  9. Christopher

    Ontario: 

    From my reading, it seems that it is possible to sell on your own farm, processed chickens and ungraded eggs that you have also raised on your own farm.

    This is called “farm gate” sales.  You cannot take these items to be sold off the farm (at a farmers market).

    Chicken meat — maximum of 300 chickens “for home consumption purposes and marketing at the farm premises”.  It sounds like they must be processed at a “federal or provincially inspected facility” if you want them to be “sold at the farm premises to purchasers who come to the premises and purchase chicken for their personal consumption.”

    It’s called the Small Flock Regulation: http://www.cfo.on.ca
    Currently no service charge associated with the regulation.

    Eggs: likewise, farmers can sell ungraded eggs that they raise on their own farm.

  10. Howard

    Wow folks I cant believe that things have gotten so bad in Canada that you have to do paperwork to buy feed. I am fortunate enough to live in Texas and we dont have to do that and I also grow my own feed but I am sure you are right that they are conspiring to find a way to stop us from being self sustainable and being more efficient than Big Food and the Big Lobbyist that can give them money to approve the restrictions on our freedoms.

  11. Kelly

    I see similar things happening in the USA. I know it has been a never ending battle for government to stop fishermen from selling on their own. It seems to keep getting worse.

  12. EtienneG

    Just to add to the discussion, we have exactly the same regulation here in the neighboring province of Québec: an exemption for 100 laying hens and 300 broilers, after which you need to buy a “quota”.
     
    This is all part of a production/marketing scheme, the supply management system, which applies to dairy, eggs and chicken production.  Those interested can read about it at:
     

     
    (the above is dairy-specific, but the same principle applies to egg and broiler production)
     
    The principle is, basically, to control production (hence supply) so that it match demand.  Coupled with collective marketing where the price have been bargained collectively and is fixed ahead of time, this prevent severe fluctuation in the market (such as what the American dairy producers have been suffering through lately) and should theorically give small farmer a better leverage against big agribusiness.  Back when the system was enacted in the 80s, it made a lot of sense.  Of course, supply management and collective bargaining are capital sins to free-marketers everywhere, but the system has done some good and did allowed smaller farm to thrive for a while.
     
    However, it also have flaws.  Most notably, because production quota can be traded and is considered a capital investiture, it accrued value over time. A *lot* of value.  This made quite a few farmers, who bought their quota relatively cheaply when the system was enacted, millionaires.  It also means that the price of quota alone can represent the single largest investiture a new dairy, egg or chicken farmer has to make.  We are talking 100s of K$ to buy the quota for a mid-sized farm here.  A perverse side-effect of supply management and collective marketing is that it raised the barrier to entry for new farmer.
     
    So, the system (while sound) needs to be revisited to correct its failure.  Existing farmer are, quite obviously, very reluctant to revise the system.  Parts of that reluctance stem from the fact that there are a long line of neo-liberal ideologue and international free-marketers screaming for the system to be abolished, and they have the ears of the governement.
     
    Personally, I think something has to be done about it.  The supply management system is fine for conventional commodity production, but some provision has to be made for emerging innovative production model.  More specifically, I want the exemption to be raised (or lifted entirely) for people marketing directly to the consumer.  Moreover, I think these quota exemptions should be eco-conditional: those producing in a sustainable fashion for their local market should have the option to opt out from the supply management and collective marketing system.
     
    But it is not going to happen.  The system will never be revisited or renegociated, because neither parties wants to do so.  The farmers are (rightfully) afraid to lose ground, and the government is led by a bunch of cowards who would rather bury their head in the sand than show any kind of leadership.  What is most likely to happen is that the system will get declared illegal under some kind of international commercial treaty, and the ideologue and multinational agribusinesses will have their ways.  On a global scale, the situation will not be much better (probably worst, in fact), but at least the small innovative producers will get some leeway.  Unless we get crushed under food “safety” regulation insanity, that is.
     
    For the record, the above discussion on supply management applies is only to dairy, egg and broiler production.  The situation in other production is completely different.

  13. kelly

    Quite amazing that the U.S. is behind Canada on regulating small farms. It seems to be just that the government will control all food. Either by telling people the food, such as eggs or chicken from a small farm are unsafe to eat, and if that doesn’t work. They will just make regulations to make it impossible to raise anything.
    Sad that we don’t have someone in government willing to represent the people.

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