The practice of urban agriculture is not a new concept and has been accepted in other parts of the province to empower local communities to develop sustainable food systems. An example of urban agriculture is the raising of urban chickens (backyard chickens) as a source of fresh eggs.
It is important for individuals interested in this idea to remember that chickens, like other animals, carry diseases that can lead to serious illnesses. Illnesses can range from mild to severe depending on the type of infection and the health status of the person. It is especially important that at-risk populations such as pregnant women, children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, and those with compromised immune systems not handle poultry at all to prevent being exposed to a disease that can lead to severe illness.
Handling chickens can expose individuals to enteric (gut) and respiratory (breathing) diseases. Common illnesses include Salmonellosis and Campylobacteriosis, both of which can cause severe watery diarrhea (often bloody), cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Chickens can also spread bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) that can be passed to humans and other animals.
Poultry may also carry avian influenza (bird flu) which is a form of the influenza virus that causes respiratory issues such as cough, fever, diarrhea, muscle pain and breathing problems. Although human infection is low, it is recommended to keep chickens away from shorebirds and waterfowl such as ducks and geese to avoid transmission of these diseases.
Are urban chickens allowed everywhere?
Please check with your local by-law as urban chickens may not be permitted in your municipality.
To protect yourself and your family from getting sick, we recommend that you consider the following:
Handwashing and Safe Handling
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after touching chickens and eggs
- Wash hands with soap and water before eating or handling food
- Do not feed birds directly from your hands
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after touching chicken feces, feed, and the coop/enclosure
- Do not bring chickens to schools or daycares
- Do not bring chickens into your home
Chickens and Young Children
- Do not bring chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry into households or settings with children under age 5, adults older than 65 years, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems
- Supervise children when they are playing with chickens or helping with the enclosure/coop
- Do not let children snuggle and kiss birds
- Help children with proper hand washing after contact with chickens or the enclosure/coop.
- Clean the chicken enclosure/coop often to reduce bacterial growth, rodents, and flies.
- Always clean areas first before disinfecting. Disinfectants only work properly on surfaces that have been cleaned first.
- Equipment such as feeders and waterers need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
- Change into clothes, shoes and gloves used ONLY for handling chickens, cleaning and working outside on the enclosure/coop.
- Keep shoes and clothes used for urban farming outdoors.
If you bathe the birds or allow them to swim, use a plastic tub or bin that is for the birds’ use only.
Appropriate housing for chickens
- Ensure the homes built for chickens does not impact the environment outside your property.
- Provide housing for chickens that is easy to clean, spacious, has good ventilation, and provides protection against other animals.
- Keep chickens in enclosures, cages or coops and NOT inside your home or in areas where people’s food or drinks are prepared, served, eaten, or stored.
- Observe chickens often to make sure they are healthy and immediately remove any sick and/or dead bird from the enclosure.
- Bring sick birds to an avian specialist veterinarian as soon as possible.
For more information, contact the Environmental Health Department hotline at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475 to speak with a Public Health Inspector.