On April 25, 2009, the Mayor and the Council committed to taking a lead role in creating a sustainable Winnipeg (The City of Winnipeg, 2010). “What Winnipeggers told us: Winnipeggers spoke passionately […] and demanded decisive action in several key areas, including […] increased opportunities for waste reduction” (p. 36). From the “SpeakUp Winnipeg” community consultations, a document titled “A Sustainable Winnipeg” was created to capture citizens’ voices and concerns regarding sustainability (The City of Winnipeg, 2010).

Allowing BYHs can help create a more sustainable Winnipeg specifically by:
a) Providing families with food security
b) Supporting local Manitoba agriculture & businesses,
c) Providing Winnipeg with natural weed & pest control,
d) Natural & Locally Produced Fertilizer
e) Providing Winnipeg with additional waste management strategies,
f) Reducing our carbon footprint

a) Food Security

Local groceries have 2-3 days of food supply during normal (non-crisis) times. If the food delivery and supply lines are severed, grocery shelves can be emptied within hours. Raising BYH provides citizens with a reliable & readily available source of protein in the form of daily fresh eggs. Eggs from BYH are a great way for residents to acquire protein, and can be far more accessible than purchasing other protein options which can be costly (see section 2 for more on nutritional value). Legalizing BYH can help Winnipeggers become in control of the food they feed to their families, as well as make our city more resilient to societal stressors and emergencies such as natural disasters, mass food recalls, trucking strikes, recessions, etc.

b) Stimulate Local Manitoba Agriculture & Business

Many city residents wish to keep urban hens for ecological reasons. Because of this, many would likely be inclined to purchase hens, grain, and supplies from local Manitoba businesses. Legalizing BYH could create unique opportunities to stimulate local Manitoban agriculture. Various other egg suppliers have not felt negative impacts on their business due to BYH Bylaws being passed in other municipalities

c) Organic Insect & Weed Control

Hens eat garden pests (mosquitoes, canker worms, slugs, grasshoppers, wasps, mice, etc.), as well as eat invasive weeds and their seeds (Foreman, 2010). BYH are organic pesticides, herbicides, and fuel-free rotor-tillers. People with BYH are less likely to use harmful chemicals and pesticides in their gardens. Instead, they desire their yard to be healthy and environmentally friendly. They consider chickens an extension of their gardens because they eat weeds and bugs and provide fertilizer (Palermo, 2010).

Legalizing BYH in Winnipeg can aid in achieving directive number five (5) within the “A sustainable Winnipeg”. Our Mayor and Councillors committed to “provide[ing] safe and effective pest and weed control in city operations (2010, p. 39). BYH and their keepers could become part of a small-scale pest and weed control solution with no direct implementation costs to the city.

d) Natural & Locally Produced Fertilizer

Whereas waste from dogs and cats typically cannot be used for compost because of the parasites and human diseases it may harbor, BYH provide natural and locally produced fertilizer (Pollock, et. al., 2012). This fertilizer is highly sought after by gardeners, as it is easily composted without any transportation costs.

Composting hen droppings will not smell if using basic composting guidelines (i.e. balancing browns and greens) and will not attract pests if kept in an enclosed unit. Chicken manure is a great addition to sustainable urban gardens, and according to Dr. Jim Hermes, OSU Extension Specialist, “once added to the compost or tilled into the soil, the odor-causing compounds are no longer able to cause objectionable odors” (Palermo, 2010).

e) Waste Management & Tax Saving Strategy
Chickens are omnivores. A hen eats about 84 to 100 pounds of food/year (Foreman, 2010), some of which can be kitchen scraps and yard waste biomass which would otherwise need to be picked up, transported and dumped at the Brady Road Landfill. How much of a difference can BYH really make for a city like Winnipeg?

Keep reading…

(1 hen) (7 pounds food waste/month) (12 months) = approx. 84 pounds Big deal, you think. That’s not so much. But what if Winnipeg had 2,000 homes with 6 hens? (6 hens) (84 pounds of food waste/hen/year) (2,000 homes) = 1,008,000 pounds (504 tonnes) of biomass diverted from the Brady Road Landfill, and a savings of $21,924 in tipping fees ($43.50/ tonne) per year. The tax savings in not having to handle, transport and store all that biomass waste by reusing them onsite is staggering, especially since no operating costs exist.

This is great news for our Mayor and Councillors; Listed within direction 3 of the “A Sustainable Winnipeg” document, Winnipeg City Council committed to implementing “solid waste diversion enabling strategies”:

1) Create a comprehensive, city-wide waste reduction strategy, encompassing garbage, recycling and organics that establishes a baseline and targets,2) Enhance waste reduction/ diversion education and awareness programs for citizens,3) Establish a waste reduction/ diversion education and awareness initiative for the Winnipeg Public Service (The City of Winnipeg, 2010, p. 38).

Allowing residents to keep 6 laying hens falls in line with the City’s commitment of creating a more sustainable Winnipeg.

f) Reduced Carbon Footprint

Eating locally and reducing the need to transport food & fertilizer long distances play a large role in fostering a sustainable community (Palermo, 2010). Raising BYH reduces the need for transporting eggs from farm/factory to the store, and then finally to the home – resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions and packaging materials (The City of San Diego, 2012). Becoming a more sustainable Winnipeg becomes easier with the availability of eggs from backyards – no fuel is needed to collect eggs from a BYH (Harrison, Pray, Doolittle & Chambless, 2010; Urban Agriculture Kingston, 2010).