Plucky pioneers

I have birds on the brain. That can happen when you read a lot of garden blogs. Inevitably, the topic of backyard chickens crops (corny anatomy pun: sorry!) up.

Originally, I was going to use this photo in a post about our dad, bless his cool buckled shoes. (This week would have been his 83th birthday.) Like many of today’s urban chicken farmers, our mum and dad were artsy city kids who got back to the land… in their case, not in the city but in an old Cotswolds farmhouse in the U.K.

Chickens ran almost wild there. Our parents used to collect eggs from among the nettles along the drive. When they decided to coop our own, I remember being allowed to name “mine” (let’s say I called my chick Fluffy), then getting an early life lesson when grown-up Fluffy coincidentally disappeared the same day we had a tasty chicken stew.

I love this portrait of our folks, and am sometimes tempted to submit it to the great website My Parents Were Awesome. Like today’s chicken-keeping city slickers, they were pioneers of a sort. Think about that when looking at the earnest faces of settlers in archival photos. Those guys were the reckless and the rugged, willing to break from the mold of their father’s fathers.

In Toronto, you have to be an outlaw to raise chickens in your back yard*. It’s against city bylaws. However, one brave (reckless and rugged) soul is trying to change that. Skip over to the blog Toronto Chickens [updated link 31 Aug 2012 – coincidentally, my Mum’s birthday!]Β to get all kinds of how-tos of the urban chicken variety. Sign the petition while you’re there. Looking at the media links on the site, it seems the chicken tide may be turning in the city. So you might find yourself growing your own organic eggs, if you’ve a mind to.

*A little digression: It bugs me that “back” and “yard” seem to have fused permanently as a noun in modern English. I gladly accept “backyard” as an unhyphenated adjective. But “backyard” as a noun seems as wrong to me as “everyday” does in the usage: seeing these words stuck together seems wrong everyday. Fume. “Backyard” may have become everyday usage, but it makes me wince every day it appears, especially when I’m in my back yard. There. Rant over.


  1. Wow, what wonderful pics ! (Your dad was a seriously handsome man, Helen. No kidding, I’m in love !). I assume the first photograph and your lovely sidebar pic were taken on the same day. (You seem to be donning the same attire). You must have very fond memories of that wonderful time ! πŸ™‚

    I put in a potager last year. Raising chickens seems the next logical step. With city bylaws on my side, I might just have a go.

  2. Rant on, Helen! I'm with you on verbifying of nouns (Impact is one of my biggest irks) and also with the dunderheads in cities who don't want chickens in backyards. They have equally moronic councillors in Halifax.

    1. A little late to reply, Johnson, but we lived near the hamlet of Cerney Wick. The fields behind our old home have transitioned from farm to quarry to waterpark. Fortunately, I think the jet-boat lake is slightly removed.

  3. Your parents were too cool, lucky you to have such an upbringing. My daughter, self named Chickenpoet has chickens, but would never have them for dinner, just the eggs. They all have names and are like her children, who also have names. πŸ™‚

  4. Yes, submit their photo to the site…You parents are cool. gail ps Now you've got me thinking about my wayback backyard and how it needs hyphens along with invasive removal!

  5. Your parents do look awesome. So fun to see our parents as young pioneers. I think of all young families like that. Chicken owners in Oklahoma City are also outlaws believe it or not. I wrote about a woman here who has a petition and has met with the city's board. They deferred their decision. I live in the country, where I'm surrounded by yard and no laws. I have a flock. I am grateful. πŸ™‚ ~~Dee

  6. Hello,

    I love the old photos of your dad. Raising chickens is definitely becoming popular for the typical suburbanite. Our HOA does not allow them, but my mother and sister are finishing up their chicken coop today. I just posted about it today. I can't wait for fresh eggs πŸ™‚

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