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    Posted March 4, 2014 by
    Toronto, Ontario
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Do you eat ethically?

    Get Cracking in Toronto: Ethical Eating


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Twin 16-year-old brothers Matthew and Andrew Patel started keeping chickens in a backyard coop after visiting their grandparents in Europe and seeing that they raised their own chickens in order to get healthy, ethical and organic eggs. "We believe that hens should be treated in the most fair and humane way possible, thus we decided to start raising chickens ourselves," Matthew Patel said.

    Raising urban hens is currently illegal in the city of Toronto, but the two brothers have actively been trying to change the bylaw since 2012. They first attempted to change the bylaw through legislation, presenting a deputation on the feasibility of legalizing urban hens in Toronto to the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee at City Hall, but this was rejected. After a number of bylaw infraction notices asking the brothers to remove their hens, they have attained two lawyers to help them challenge the city's bylaws.

    Patel told us that many people in Toronto keep urban hens but are not as active in the media as the two brothers because they don't want to receive infraction notices. The brothers are not alone in their fight to change the city's bylaws; they are both members of the group "Toronto Chickens," which is a large supporter of the Urban Hen Movement. "The Urban Hen movement has been largely associated with the Urban Food Movement and Right to Food Movement, which promotes urban agriculture and knowing where your food comes from." Patel said. "We are trying to become more involved in food security related issues and hope that our efforts will lead to a more sustainable and self-reliant food community in Toronto."
    - Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer

    We have been keeping hens in the city for over two years. We first got interested in backyard hens during a trip to Europe when we visited our grandmother’s old farm where she had chickens many years ago. We researched the bylaw regarding the keeping of backyard hens in Toronto and learned that it was illegal, however we decided that the benefits of supplying ourselves with fresh locally produced ethical eggs from healthy, happy hens was worth the risk. We are now challenging the city’s by-law prohibiting backyard hens as we feel it is unconstitutional and denies us the right to eat ethically farmed eggs.

    We give our hens an all-organic feed, from a local feed store. We bought our chickens from a local organic farmer who supplies produce and meat to local Toronto restaurants. One aspect of our ethically produced eggs is that we try to minimize the transportation needed to obtain the supplies for the chickens. Thus, we source out all our feed and equipment from farmers as close to us, as possible. We understand that a vast amount of pollution is created through the transport of food. To be sustainable and produce ethical food, we need to start eating more local food. Our backyard where we keep our hens are steps away from the kitchen where we prepare our eggs for a meal.

    All of the manure the chickens make is put into our neighbour’s garden, as well as our own flowerbeds. Having chickens reduces our food waste as our table scrapes and peels from vegetables and fruits are given to the hens. They love lettuce, strawberries and watermelon.

    We built our coop with the comfort of the hens in mind. They have lots of space to roam inside the coop. Since, our winters are very cold, the hen house is heated and has light during the day, as well as a heated water bowl to ensure that they have access to water at all times. During the warm summer months, we let the chickens free range in our backyard. They like to forage and eat bugs and worms and take dust baths in the mulch. However, they don’t like the snow so during the winter they stay in their coop and we put plastic wrap around the coop to minimize the wind and snow that gets into the coop. We started this hobby with ethics in mind, as we wanted to make the chickens’ lives as comfortable as possible.

    One of the main reasons why we choose to raise hens was for the purpose to get eggs and to educate local people about where their food comes from. Many of our neighbours have come by our house to see the chickens and to learn about raising backyard hens to obtain fresh eggs. After a couple weeks of having our hens, we learned more about the egg laying process and where our eggs come from. This was important to us because we like to eat eggs and this is a food supply we can maintain year round. In a day and age where one can never be certain of how imported food is grown or raised, we have complete control over the eggs we eat. We know that we are eating eggs from healthy hens that are being raised in a ethical way using organic feed and are free of chemicals.

    Fortunately, we have been able to consult with Dr. Mike Petrik, a poultry veterinarian specializing in laying hens and he has been instrumental in helping us learn about animal welfare in relation to modern egg farming and backyard hens. We are constantly learning about the new and improved ways of taking care of the hens and how to deal with "chicken problems", like raccoon attacks.

    We believe that education regarding animal welfare, sustainable living, nutrition and the impact of one’s foot print on the environment is pivotal in encouraging people to eat food that has been ethically raised, collected, transported, and marketed.

    Thank you to Jan Keck for helping film and edit the video, Joanne Hogan for helping initiate this process, and to Irene Vrckovnik, Ameen Patel and Alexandra Patel for supporting our interest in keeping hens for the purpose of getting ethical eggs.

    Please visit: Crackdown.ca for more information regarding the legalization of hens in the city Toronto and to view a documentary regarding urban hen keeping.

    Music: Josh Woodward - On Brevity (Instrumental)
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