A Little Off the Top: Fuss and Feathers

I’ve never been one to get all worked up about what my neighbours do on their side of the fence, provided nothing toxic spills onto my side, and their revelry doesn’t deprive me of more than one or two nights of sleep each year.

Still, I’ve always been fascinated by the debates that crop up from time to time about who or what should be allowed to move into a neighbourhood, or what people should or should not be permitted to do on their own property.

A case in point is the recent dust-up at Whitehorse city council about whether or not chickens belong in urban backyards.

The municipal Moms and Pops, in their wisdom, handled the issue with the gingerly caution you’d expect at an egg-toss event at the annual Sunday School picnic. They decided, more or less, not to decide. At least, not just at the moment.

Now call me naïve, ill-informed, or just plain thick, but I have to admit I lean toward the pro-chicken side of things.

OK, not the rooster side.

Until some genetic genius develops a rooster with a built-in snooze alarm, even I don’t want one anywhere near my bedroom window.

But I have no problem sleeping through the soft clucking of a small flock of hens.

This is the era of the 100-mile (or less) diet, with a growing awareness of local food security and the environmental impacts of long-distance transportation.

Those of the herbivorean persuasion are allowed – encouraged, in fact – to raise their food of choice in their backyards.

Conceivably, some of the condominiums popping up like mushrooms throughout the city could sprout roof-top gardens; there’s ample precedent in Yukon’s history.

Why should we meatarians be prevented from contributing to the cause?

The idea of my morning egg coming from a hen who spent her entire career in conditions that would shame a Middle Eastern prison is hard to swallow.

Perhaps the mayor and council should consider the experience of more than 300 North American municipalities, from New York to LA, from Charlottetown to Victoria, that either allow backyard cluckers or turn a blind eye to their presence.

For all I know, somewhere in the dusty archives of the United Nations there may even be a Universal Declaration of Breakfast Rights guaranteeing one’s inalienable right to start the day with a brace of the freshest eggs possible.

But if council does let that particular fox slip into the bylaw henhouse, why stop there?

Many of us enjoy a rasher of bacon or a slice of ham with our sunnyside-ups. So why not permit the odd porker for that purpose?

And since Health Canada insists that we Wartime Babies and those upstart Baby Boomers get our daily fix of calcium, perhaps each Riverdale lawn might be allowed to host a discreet Holstein – but no noisy neck-bells, of course.

This could provide other advantages beyond the dollop of milk required for the daily omellete.

With a ready supply of organic fertilizer, Whitehorse would be sure to win the prestigious Communities in Bloom competition every year.

And for those festive occasions when your inner carnivore craves a little steak with the eggs, you could always slip outside and help yourself to a small slice of flank. Lovingly, of course. And preferably under cover of darkness.

[Note to self: that last paragraph is in unspeakably bad taste. Remove it immediately.]

If backyard bovines are too much (admittedly, the odour of their byproducts is much more pungent than that of chickens), perhaps there’s a compromise solution. Give the go-ahead to goats.

Goat milk, after all, is much easier on the digestive tract than that of cows.

A well-bred goat will keep your lawn at a height that is sure to satisfy even the most judgmental neighbor, without having to resort to a noisy, exhaust-spewing lawnmower.

You’ll always have a nanny for the kids.

Best of all – we’re thinking of the environment here, folks – you won’t be endangering the ozone layer with unnecessary trips to the north end of town.

Instead of washing out your cans and bottles and trucking them all the way to Raven Recycling, you can just feed ’em to Billy. He’ll eat anything – even the stuff Mikey won’t touch.

So if the question of domestic fowl ever comes to a plebiscite, count me on the side of Definitely Maybe.

As I’ve always said, Live and Let’s Eat!

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