What kind of people sell their spacious home on a lake in the suburbs to move to a comparatively tiny fixer upper on a small acreage to start homesteading and live the life of their dreams? Crazy people? That’s right! Our names are Bonnie and Kyle and this is the ongoing story of our adventures together after moving our family out of the city and into rural Manitoba, Canada.
Earlier this year our local Peavey Mart had a grand opening sale and put the Coops & Feathers Superior Hen House on at a deep discount. Until that point we had been considering building our own coop but (as always) time was in short supply, and we had a commitment to pick up 5 pullets very soon. We decided that at half price ($150) we could purchase two of these coops and combine them into a ‘super coop’ of sorts.
How to cope with unsupportive people. This is a bit of a deep topic, that hits very close to home for me because it’s not just any people, either. I am talking close friends. Maybe, close family. A grandparent. A brother, even. You decide. I think we all have someone like this – If you don’t, count yourself lucky.
If we are to believe everything we see online, then it’s pretty safe to say that literally EVERYBODY has chickens. Or at least, everyone on our Instagram! On our 2 acres we should be able to accommodate a pretty sizable flock without much difficulty right? Right. We thought.
Also, in case you didn’t know, we eat a LOT of eggs (our main motivation to keep chickens in the first place!) By a lot of eggs I mean a minimum of 8 per day, and sometimes 10 if our toddler is willing to consume them that day too. So assuming you get an average of 5 eggs per week from a chicken (more or less right?) and we need about 70 eggs per week, we would need… 14 chickens. Problem with 14 is… What if some of them are laying a bit light one week? We rely on eggs as a major protein source because we eat low carb so more is definitely better. Plus then you want to give some to your family or your neighbors or whatever, and probably preserve some as well. So we figured 20 – 30 chickens would give us enough space to consume whatever we liked and have enough for all of our extras.
Nothing against barnyard mix chickens. So cute, right? Right. But I thought it would be fun to pick our own breeds so that we knew pretty much exactly what we were getting as far as temperament and laying frequency and egg color (that’s half of the fun for me). The big thing for us though, was to pick cold hardy breeds preferably with small combs because we live in such a cold climate and have snow / freezing temperatures (-40 C windchill is no joke) for over half of the year. So we went ahead and ordered 25 day old chicks in a variety of breeds from a hatchery in the USA.
We had to order from the USA because:
Hatcheries here either have some kind of ridiculous minimum per breed (usually 10)
Most of the chicks we found in Canada come straight run (meaning you don’t know the sex) and we did not want any roosters
We had a terrible time finding anything but leghorns and barnyard mix for sale privately, and the few hatcheries had those pesky minimums.
Problems with ordering from the USA:
Our dollar seriously stinks so we end up paying kind of a lot per chick
You literally need a permit to bring day old chicks across the border. The Government of Canada’s website wasn’t working to access the application forms and when we tried to have them send us a copy via email, they directed us back to the broken link.
We had to pay a veterinary fee of about $75 to the hatchery in order for them to provide the documentation needed for the application, adding to the already sizable chick cost.
You have to be ready at a moments notice to head down to the border to collect your chicks, because there is a narrow window in which you’re allowed to bring baby chickens across the border and you know… They are live and just sitting in a box and you can’t just leave them at the post office!
So ordering from the USA was a lot more work than we had anticipated, and we just thought “forget it”. We cancelled our order. We decided it was way too much work.
But lets rewind a bit. This article is called “Chicken Planning Around By-Laws” for a reason. Again, we live on just over 2 acres. Our area is outside of the city in a rural municipality (RM) and is zoned “rural residential”. This basically means that the lots are above average size (bigger than 45′ x 115′ or whatever the standard city lot these days is) and generally don’t have services (we have our own well and septic). We knew having any type of livestock such as a horse, for example, would be an issue… Provincially, you must have a minimum of 5 acres for a single horse and then two additional acres per horse after that.
What we didn’t anticipate was an issue getting a medium sized flock of personal use / pet chickens. Kyle called the RM office just to cover our bases before we jumped in, because the information was not available online. He was first told that chickens were not permitted in our area. Then he was told that the by-law didn’t specifically say chickens weren’t allowed – In fact, it didn’t say anything about chickens at all (the only reference was that ‘stables’ weren’t permitted). Then he was told that the RM was planning on changing the by-law this spring and specifically outlawing chickens. And THEN he was told that if we wanted to get chickens, technically we could right now legally… But the RM wouldn’t like it. But that also it would be difficult to prove WHEN we got the chickens, so even if the by-law changed, we could claim to be grandfathered in if there was a complaint.
All we wanted was a few chickens, people. We moved to a little acreage assuming this wouldn’t be an issue. Just goes to show – Don’t assume.
The good news is, every morning (and all day) we can hear a rooster crowing. One of our neighbors has chickens and everyone can hear them (… him), so I don’t expect anyone to complain.
Back to the importing process.
We cooled down over a few weeks and decided we still did want chickens, but we didn’t want to go through the huge hassle that was importing. Now that spring is upon us there are a lot of ‘local’ people who have chicks hatching and we’ve decided to get a handful… 6-8. This is a much more manageable number for us. Our original plan was to build a large shed style, insulated coop and because we have scaled back we are saving a lot of time and money by using prefab coops. We got two of these which we are going to combine into a super coop. Benefits to our prefab super coop:
We can easily reinforce it and add wheels to make it portable to move it around as we like.
We don’t have to take the time (that we don’t have) to build it from scratch ourselves.
We can easily take it with us if we ever move (when we move…)
We can drag it into our attached garage for the winter to keep the chickens protected from the elements and to make caring for them much easier, since the garage access is right off our kitchen.
We may still have to supplement with eggs from elsewhere, but I found someone a 5 minute drive away who sells eggs, which is fine for me. We won’t be ready for chickens until the beginning of May or so but check out our Instagram and follow our emails to get updates when they arrive!