North

Farming chickens a returning trend in northern Quebec

Backyard chicken raising for fresh eggs is returning to the community of Mistissini in northern Quebec.

'Farmers give the same respect toward the land and animals as the Cree,' says Bethanie Blacksmith

Bethanie Blacksmith says it's 'always been a dream of mine to have a little farm.' She built a chicken farm in her community of Mistissini, Que. ( Submitted by Bethanie Blacksmith)

Backyard chicken raising for fresh eggs is returning to the community of Mistissini in northern Quebec. 

"It was done before so I wanted to give it a try," said Bethanie Blacksmith. "It fits into our lives to have chickens. It has always been a dream of mine to have a little farm." 

Blacksmith did much of the research by reading and talking to people, as the climate for farming in the North isn't the same as southern farming grounds. 

Blacksmith's family renovated and cleaned their shed at home to accommodate chickens indoors, as well as the outside area where they can go through a small door.

She bought her chickens from a local farmer in Chibougamau, Que., who owns a ranch just an hour's drive south of the community.

We started during the travel restrictions in our region when the pandemic happened.- Minnie Coonishish, Mistissini local

"Once it's almost dark, they take themselves indoors to their nesting boxes and sleep. It is very nice where they are," said Blacksmith.

"We feed them food we buy from the farm, also fresh vegetables, corn, berries from our home … it has to be organic." 

She said the chickens lay up to six to seven eggs a day, about one egg each.

"We eat some and give some to other people."  

Blacksmith's family renovated and cleaned their shed at home to accommodate chickens indoors, as well as the outside area where they can go through a small door. (Submitted by Bethanie Blacksmith)

Minnie Coonishish​​​​​, another local resident, has also been raising chickens for fresh eggs — but for a different reason.

"We started during the travel restrictions in our region when the pandemic happened," said Coonishish. "As it gets colder, we are now looking at ways to insulate and have bought a heating light to keep the chickens warm."

'A little bit more self-sustaining'

It will be Blacksmith's first winter season with the chickens, and she said it will be a learning experience.

"Farmers give the same respect toward the land and animals as the Cree ... way of life does," she said. "It brings out a feeling of accomplishment that we are a little bit more self-sustaining."

Farming and agriculture has always been a passion for Blacksmith.

"At a young age, I always saw farm animals and being around farms always made me happy," said Blacksmith. 

She recalled Rev. Larry Linton, who she said was the first to bring up farm animals to Mistissini. Linton confirmed he owned a barn with farm animals back in 1978 — until about 15 years ago.

"There were horses, turkeys, and chickens — I was amazed to see them," said Blacksmith. "I was allowed to go feed and touch them and it felt great."

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