More than a dozen Windsorites have banded together in a collective to raise chickens for a constant supply of fresh eggs in Essex County in an effort to avoid ruffling feathers in the city's bylaw office.
Fourteen members currently make up the group they've cleverly called the "Clucktive" — a cooperative group raising dozens of chickens in the country to dodge bylaws restricting backyard birds within Windsor city limits.
- Guelph-area farm will rent you backyard chickens
- Considering backyard chickens? Here are some quick tips
Philippa von Ziegenweidt is a member of the Clucktive and makes the 25 minute drive to the chicken coop from her home in the city each week, taking large bags of spent grain and other food scraps for the hens to eat.
In exchange, she collects whatever eggs they have laid that day.
A different member visits the chicken coop each day to check on the chickens and feed them, along with taking care of daily maintenance and cleanup.
"We have different tasks that we share," explained von Ziegenweidt. "The chickens are well treated and they get plenty of food."
Waste not, want not
Part of the group's ethos is to avoid waste as much as possible. While they do purchase food regularly for the chickens, a large portion of the feed is donated from local businesses who would otherwise throw out their food byproducts.
On a weekly basis, a downtown Windsor brewery supplies the chicken collective with spent grain — a byproduct of the brewing process — to feed the hens.
"If they didn't pick up the spent grain, it would go in the garbage," said Craft Heads head brewer Chad Balkwill.
"They'll convert those food scraps into eggs," added von Ziegenweidt, who pointed out the Clucktive takes the concept of zero waste so seriously it uses all of the chicken manure produced by the hens as fertilizer for community gardens.
The group can often predict just how many eggs the hens will yield by combining modern technology with farming.
"I'm a spreadsheet person, so I have statistics of all the eggs that we've collected in the last seven years," said von Ziegenweidt who uses a Google Doc to share numbers with the rest of the egg collective.
"We can predict from week to week approximately how many we're going to find," she explained.
Bylaws within the city of Windsor restrict homeowners from having "any domestic fowl" on their property, but other southwestern Ontario cities have recently made changes to allow birds within city limits.
Kitchener changed its bylaw to allow backyard chickens in late 2016, a move which prompted a chicken rental service in that community.