Back yard chickens a growing trend in Kingston

Caitlin and Olivia Newey

A new trend has popped up in Kingston during the COVID-19 pandemic: backyard chickens.

Caitlin Newey has had her four hens for two weeks now. She says she has had chickens before, and was thinking about how they could benefit her family again, when COVID-19 hit.

"Now we’ve got the time and we’ve got the space," she says. “We’re lucky enough to have the resources to do this, so we just pulled the trigger."

Newey says the goal is to teach her daughter about sustainability and the food chain.

"I think some people have a real disconnect between where their food comes from and how it ends up on their plate," she explains. "This teaches Olivia and her friends who come to see the chickens where things come from."

Whether you can own hens depends on where you live. In Ottawa, a by-law prohibits having urban chickens.

Kingston residents can have a maximum of six hens. In Gatineau, you can have up to five egg-laying hens and an apiary, if your home meets the requirements and you have a permit.

In areas like those, stay at home orders under the pandemic have caused many to take up the hobby. The Neweys say they’re raising their chickens for eggs, but others raise chickens for meat.

For those selling the birds, business has been good.

"We’re seeing more city people and people from far away," says Lois Millen, who is the manager of Willows Agriservice, outside Kingston. "I have friends who have hatcheries and one says she’s had people who were driving all the way from North Bay to Colborne just for, like, a couple of ducks, or a couple of chickens."

In her 40 years of doing this, Millen says she would usually sell a few hundred chicks, but that has skyrocketed.

"We sold a thousand every month right through to September," she says. "So yeah, it’s very unique, let's put it that way."

She has also seen customers buying up feed in bulk.

"They were trying to be like toilet paper - they were trying to hoard it a little bit," laughs Millen.

For the Neweys, the chickens have been an egg-cellent choice.

"It’s really nice to have them walking around and having happy chicken lives," Newey says.