Ottawa

Cooped-up Gatineau residents flocking to new hobby: backyard chickens

People in Gatineau, Que., are flocking to a new hobby during the current pandemic: they're raising chickens in their backyards.

New-found enthusiasm for urban birds has led to shortage, especially hens

By June 1, the City of Gatineau had issued nearly as many permits for backyard chicken coops as it did in all of 2019. (John Rieti/CBC)

People in Gatineau, Que., are flocking to a new hobby during the current pandemic: they're raising chickens in their backyards.

While backyard chicken coops are prohibited in Ottawa, they're allowed even in dense urban areas across the river in Gatineau.

In fact, by June 1, the city had handed out nearly as many permits for backyard coops as it did in all of 2019.

"I think the go-to question of the year is where to find chickens," said Vicki Black, who's helping neighbours start their own coops in Gatineau's Aylmer sector.  

"There's just so many people getting involved. I don't think the normal hatcheries can meet up with the demand," she told CBC Radio's In Town and Out, adding it's especially difficult to find hens at the moment.

'I feel like a farmer'

Black said it didn't take her long to discover the benefits of backyard chickens go far beyond a ready supply of fresh eggs. She began using the birds' waste as fertilizer, and fed them leftover vegetable scraps.

"It was educational. It was something to teach our kids and do as a family," she said.

"It's been great. They're hilarious," said Aylmer resident Tyler Lawlor, who got his four hens about a week ago. "I wake up in the morning, I get my coffee, I go out, let the chickens out. I feel like a farmer."

Lawlor said the pandemic has given him extra time to build a proper coop and care for his adolescent birds.

"Now we're waiting for that day when we open up the coop and find our first egg," he said. "We're excited for that day to come."

Black admits she has worried some of that enthusiasm will fade when the pandemic ends and people start returning to the office. 

"What I've seen, though, isn't that at all," she said. "People are even more prepared than I was when I got into this —and I was gung-ho."

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