rough notes

Halifax and the Chickens

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Pity the poor urban farmer, whose backyard chicken operation has turned into a PR disaster for the once environmentally-friendly, formally eco-cool city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

By now, most of Canada has seen one news report or another highlighting the plight of Halifax resident Lousie Hanavan, a soon-to-be former urban farmer who kept three chickens in her backyard. Hanavan, who hardly fits the Hanavan Chicken Halifax (Courtesy of eco-hippie that old-time conservative growl at – she appears as yuppified and “residential” as anyone else in her backyard – raises the chickens for their eggs. While she shares them with her neighbours, she keeps them mostly for herself, providing a reliable, local and healthy alternative to mass-produced eggs at Chicken factories owned by multinational food processing conglomerates.

According to the reports, she made certain that her neighbours would be okay with her backyard operation (again of only three chickens) before she began her operation nine months ago, and all assented to the idea. And, she’s very attentative to controlling the food supply laid down in the yard. But now, some stodgy, old curmudgeon down the road has called the bylaw enforcement officers on her, claiming the chickens and their feed are bringing rats into the neighbourhood.

Bollucks. The rats were always there. Halifax is a port town, a dirty, dirty port town that up until recently, did not even treat its sewage. Rats don’t feast exclusively on bird seed. Rats eat garbage – the food we drop to the ground and don’t throw away. As many other people have said already, the trick to getting rid of the rats is to get rid of the people. Ditch the downtown street meat vendors. Stop sending your children to school with treats for recess. Eat only mass-produced crackers.

This has all the appearances of one neighbour having a grievance against another (a common occurrance in the urban poultry world, it seems). Hanavan’s chickens are not the culprits for the port-town’s rat population. And neither is she the first person to have ever invested time and energy into backyard farming. If the friggin’ vicar of a church in Jolly Ole London, England, can maintain a coop, then so can Hanavan in west-end Halifax.

Local councillor, Sheila Fougere, who has sat on council so long that she no longer hears the voice of the people but just the din of election rhetoric, has offered to the press a half-assed suggestion that locals ought to just go to the Farmer’s Market, or head outside of town to a farm for their local produce. That’s a self-serving, and very short-sighted answer. Louise Hanavan and other urban farmers are not sitting on the margins of society as wayway anti-social rejects, but are walking well ahead of the sustainable urban living curve compared to their city council.

Like the annual brouhaha of the unamended downtown sightlines, the cancerous growth of the suburbs, and the dominant presence of the “Heritage Trust” this episode reeks of poor planning and insight on the part of HRM.


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  1. […] 29, 2008 · No Comments Some extended thoughts today regarding the controversy surrounding Halifax, Louise Hanavan, and her former […]

  2. […] Halifax and The Chickens, where the writer takes note of Louise Hanavan’s story and rants about hens and politics in […]

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