Nfld. & Labrador

Backyard chicken farming taking off in central Labrador

A growing number of people in central Labrador are building chicken coops right in their backyards, as Labrador Morning's John Gaudi reveals in this photo essay.
Chris Griffin shows off his hen, Gert, at their backyard chicken coop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He and his wife Julianne have been raising chickens for close to two years and are planning to make the flock bigger and build a new chicken coop this summer. (John Gaudi/CBC)

A growing number of people in central Labrador are building chicken coops right in their backyards.

Raising chickens is not exactly a new phenomenon in Labrador. Consider how the Grenfell Mission tended to birds in North West River back in the day. 

Raising chickens in Labrador isn't a new phenomenon exactly. Just consider the Moravian missionaries tending to their birds. But these days, there's a new generation flocking to it and they're building coops right in their backyards. 12:08

But backyard chicken farming appears to be taking off again, due to an increased awareness of where and how food is produced.

It's one way to fight against food insecurity in a region that struggles with access to fresh, locally produced food.

Julianne Griffin cradles Gert, a Rhode Island red, who is at the top of the pecking order in the hen house. Building a suitable coop for the climate takes research. The insulated chicken coop has electricity for a heater and to keep the water from freezing. It also has a roosting post, a feeder, nesting boxes, and a covered run. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Since starting to sell chicken feed, Christina and Bernard Bird, owners of Birdhouse Garden Market in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, have dealt with between 50 and 60 backyard chicken farmers in central and coastal Labrador.

Nugget, Henrietta and Gert faithfully lay eggs each day. (John Gaudi/CBC)

They started supplying feed last July after the only supermarket carrying it in Happy Valley-Goose Bay stopped selling it. People raising chickens asked if the couple could bring it in.

Julianne and Chris Griffin, who have had chickens for about two years, say there's nothing better than eating eggs from their own hens, noting the high cost of food in the North.  

Julianne Griffin says an increased awareness about the food we eat helps to explain the trend of backyard chicken farming. The high cost of food in the North also probably has something to do with it. Their chickens lay eggs in all different kinds of shapes and sizes. Julianne says it's fun to get unique eggs that you wouldn't likely find in the supermarket. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Farmer Jim Purdy knows there's demand for locally produced eggs, a market that could be supplied by more people raising chickens.

A close-up of one of Jim Purdy's hens in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He thinks more people should get into raising chickens as it's part of a tradition of having livestock at home and being self-sufficient. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Jim Purdy says you'd practically have to work for nothing to run a commercial chicken operation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Buying thousands of hens ready to lay, shipping in feed by the ton, and the high cost of building materials would be very costly in comparison to bringing in eggs by the truckload. Still, there's a demand for free-range eggs in the area that backyard chicken farmers can supply. (John Gaudi/CBC)

The passion for backyard chicken farming is being passed on to the next generation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, too.

Family physician Gabe Woollam is teaching his children what goes into making their own food by raising chickens in their backyard.

Family physician Gabe Woollam and his family have a half dozen chickens in their backyard in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Woolam says it's a good chance for his sons (2-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Finn) to learn where their food comes from and what goes into making it. The boys feel excited about collecting and eating eggs they feel they helped to make. (John Gaudi/CBC)

These photographs capture the commitment, spirit and pride a growing number of backyard chicken farmers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay bring to producing their food locally.

Christina Bird carefully holds a chick that's less than a day old. It's part of a batch of 19 fertilized eggs Christina and her husband Bernard hatched in an incubator at home. The couple move the chicks to a heated brooder in their basement until they're old enough to go out to their own pen in the chicken coop. (John Gaudi/CBC)
This chick broke through its egg just moments ago in an incubator kept at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Its feathers are still wet but will fluff up like the others once dry. The chicks will be moved to a makeshift brooder the Birds have set up in the basement - a large dog crate with heat lamps, perches, food and water. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Christina Bird feels being able to grow their own food is not only important for overall happiness and health, but puts the "soul" back in food. She says it's a great accomplishment being able to provide eggs for friends and family. Knowing where their food comes from, she believes, is also important given the food security issue in the province. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Bernard Bird holds one of three identical leghorn chickens. He jokes they've named them all "Judy" because they can't tell them a part. The breed is a bigger and hardier bird suitable for the Labrador climate. The heated chicken coop is also well insulated against the harsh Labrador winters. (John Gaudi/CBC)
The Griffins refer to their hens — Gert, Nugget, and Henrietta — as the "ladies". Chris says their chickens are full of personality and even come running looking for treats when he whistles. He also thinks it's better to know his eggs come from his chickens rather than buying them from the supermarket. He says they taste better, too. (John Gaudi/CBC)


John Gaudi

CBC reporter

John Gaudi reports from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CBC's Labrador Morning.