Chickens run afoul in Montreal as urban farming takes off

SPCA Montreal is putting out the message: Think twice before bringing home chickens.

People don't often realize how much care chickens require, says a spokesperson for the SPCA

Chickens require more care than people often realize, says an SPCA Montreal spokesperson. (CBC)

The number of chickens flying the coop, getting dropped off at shelters or being set loose in Montreal has doubled in the last two years — ruffling the feathers of a local animal rights group that says the urban farming trend is to blame.

"We understand that wanting to raise urban chickens often comes from good intentions in the sense that people are becoming increasingly concerned about factory farming," Anita Kapuscinska, spokesperson for the Montreal SPCA, told Daybreak.

"People don't realize the amount of care chickens require."

Because of this, chickens often end up abandoned — left with animal shelters or to fend for themselves on the streets of Montreal, Kapuscinska said.

In some cases, she said, the bird may be an "escape artist" that slipped free. Either way, the chickens are not being reclaimed.

People often don't realize chickens are "extremely sensitive, intelligent animals who require very specialized and costly care, which is not always easy to provide in the city," Kapuscinska said.

On the island of Montreal, several municipalities and boroughs have adopted bylaws allowing residents to have a chicken coop, including Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Rookie farmers didn't always anticipate what a challenge chickens can be, Kapuscinska said.

For one thing, hens lay eggs for about two years and then can live for many years after, she said. 

The birds require extra care in winter and identifying a chick's sex isn't always easy.

That means people can unexpectedly end up with aggressive, ear-splitting rooster that draws the ire of neighbours.

Roosters are particularly hard for sanctuaries to house because of their aggressive nature, Kapuscinska said.

Number of homeless fowl doubles

With the fowl problem on the rise, Kapuscinska said the non-profit organization is putting out the message: Think twice before bringing home chickens.

"Two years ago, we received over 20 chickens," she said. "In 2018, this number almost doubled."

Last week, a chicken was found pecking around a Montreal park. It had a leg injury and required specialized care, she said. 

In such cases, the SPCA tries to find a suitable home through a network of sanctuary groups that take in chickens.

"We want to make sure that they find placements where they will be able to live their entire lives like normal chickens," she said. 


Isaac Olson


Isaac Olson is a journalist with CBC Montreal. He worked largely as a newspaper reporter and photographer for 15 years before joining CBC in the spring of 2018.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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