Victory! Toronto City Council Ends Backyard Hen Pilot Program

Great news for hens! Toronto’s controversial UrbanHensTO pilot program is officially coming to an end. The program was first introduced five years ago, and allowed Torontonians to keep up to four hens in select areas of the city “for enjoyment and egg production”.

Toronto City Council voted to adopt the Economic and Community Development Committee’s recommendation to shut down the pilot program due to serious animal welfare concerns and the epidemic of avian influenza sweeping across Canada. City Council’s decision comes after hearing from concerned citizens, infectious disease specialists, and animal protection groups, including Animal Justice.

People who already have hens in the city as part of the pilot program are allowed to keep these animals under the condition that they must follow the rules outlined in the program and that they don’t jeopardize public health or the health of the hens.

Animal Justice spoke at the Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on April 25, 2023 requesting that the pilot be shut down, and wrote to City Council on May 8, 2023 reiterating our concerns.

Animal Justice has vocally opposed the UrbanHensTO program because we know that it’s harmful for hens, who risk getting and spreading bird flu, may not be able to access proper veterinary care, and may be discarded to (already overburdened) animal rescues and sanctuaries when they stop laying eggs. Our latest op-ed in the Toronto Star examines these issues in detail and aims to spread awareness on why urban chicken programs do more harm than good.

While we celebrate this victory, we will keep working to ensure the ban stays in place. Council asked Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards to revisit the decision in 2025, after bird flu “no longer poses a risk”. Animal Justice will continue to push City Council to make sure the backyard chicken program never resumes again.

Animal Justice extends a huge thank you to all of our supporters who wrote to the city to ask councillors to end this harmful program! And of course, one of the best ways to help hens is to avoid eating eggs entirely.