Monday, 11 May 2015

Chickens in the city? How about in church?

I see that the City of Owen Sound is considering allowing the raising of chickens within city limits.

I know of a couple of people who will be right on this, who are probably planning their chicken coops right now.

For our rural neighbours, this will, of course, be nothing new. Chickens and livestock have always been part of the rural fabric. But in the city? Not so much.

Livestock were banned from urban areas for good reason. They produce a lot of excrement. And somebody has to remove it, or it becomes offensive and a health hazard.

Think dog poop is a problem? Annoyed that people don’t pick up after their own animals? Now think chickens. And having been in a chicken barn when it is being cleaned out with a loader, the smell is, shall we say, overpowering.

Although I would not want to have chickens myself, I have lived in Toronto where my neighbours had pigeons. Nice birds, but a bit noisy and, yes, a bit smelly.

My one experience with chickens in church came several years ago on Easter Sunday

My colleague brought a chicken to church that day for the Children’s Time. She had picked up on the story of Peter denying Jesus, but wanted to emphasise new life which chickens also represent.

It was a real chicken. But what she forgot to ask was if it was a laying hen.

The Children’s Time went well. The kids were appropriately curious about the chicken, most not ever having see a live one.

At the end of Children’s Times, after the young people went off to Sunday School, the chicken in its cage was covered up and we proceeded with the service.

During the sermon I could hear rustling in the chicken cage. Something was going on.

At the end of the sermon, one of our members went up to the cage, lifted the cover and started to laugh. I looked down and saw her mouth to me with a great big smile, “It laid an egg!”.

I have to confess that was the first time any sermon I ever preached caused an egg to be laid. I have had people pass out, a dog turn off the PA system and church musicians accidentally hit an organ key in the middle of preaching, but never has anyone laid an egg. Until then.

Nothing is without risk in this world; raising chickens in the city included. I suppose that if Owen Sound were to allow the raising of chickens in the city there would have to be limits on the number and housing involved. I don’t think that having chickens advertised as “Free range - 2nd Ave East” or “Raised by the harbour” would be a selling point, but who knows?

I also trust they will be laying hens only. A rooster joining me for coffee at 5:00 AM is a bit much.

Nothing is ever as perfect nor as bucolic as we would like; chickens in the city included. What the city decides to do will be an interesting process to watch.

Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.