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Nine members of Toronto’s backyard-chicken underground on the special bond between man and bird

On November 30, councillors Joe Mihevc and Mary-Margaret McMahon took on the considerable challenge of trying to overturn nearly three decades of city hall opposition to backyard hens. They didn’t quite succeed. (Their motion to study the issue was referred to the municipal licensing and standards committee for consideration in February.) With his trademark zeal for kindergarten humour, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti opined, “Now we’re going to have thousands of chickens crossing the road and we’re going to have neighbours fighting against neighbours because they don’t want to hit the chickens.” But what Mammoliti and his ilk don’t understand is that urban hen keeping didn’t really go away when it was outlawed in 1983. It just went underground—into garages, sheds and secluded corners of backyards. The hopes of these renegade urban hen keepers are now running high, riding Toronto’s ever-growing wave of locavorism. Here, nine of those rebels, who break the law every day, talk about that other love that dare not speak its name: that between man and hen.

First up, Jill and Sunshine »