When Donna Miazga showed up for work at her east Vancouver community centre early one rainy Saturday morning, just as she did every week, she was startled by an unusual noise: clucking.
Running towards her was none other than a drenched chicken.
“I was quite shocked.”
Miazga found some crackers, crushed them up, fed the chicken, and got to work. But it kept clucking and tapping on the window for more.
Hazel Hollingdale, vice-president of the centre’s community association, arrived on the scene later that day and joined Miazga in wondering what to do with this mystery chicken.
Miazga’s feathered discovery highlights a question that has surfaced since the City of Vancouver passed a bylaw two years ago allowing Vancouverites to keep chickens in their backyards: not “Why did the chicken cross the road?” but “What do you do when you find a chicken that has flown the coop?”
“It was pouring rain and it was the end of the day on Saturday so there was nowhere that we could really call to ask about what to do with her,” said Hollingdale.
Worried that the local coyotes and raccoons would make a meal out of the bird, Hollingdale made a bold decision and took matters into her own hands. She brought the chicken home and made a nest for it.
In her bathroom.
A hen in the bathroom
After buying some pine pellets and a cage from the pet store, the bathroom of her cozy one-bedroom basement suite, which Hollingdale shares with her husband and two cats, was swiftly converted into a makeshift chicken coop.
“She just kind of huddled down and she’d cover herself in pine. And then every time we walked in, she’d like ‘Cluck cluck cluck.’”
Soon after moving her in, Hollingdale gave the hen a name: Henrietta.
City chickens flying the coop
As more chickens move to the city, cases like Henrietta’s could become more common.
Since chickens are relatively new to Vancouver neighbourhoods, it’s likely that most city dwellers — like Hollingdale — are unaware of who to contact in cases of homeless chickens.
The city’s animal control department is the official body for dealing with stray urban chickens and the place to call for those with lost poultry on their hands or in their bathrooms. But that information is buried deep in the “growing food” section of the City’s website.
“Could be an Old English Game”
Hollingdale wasn’t sure how to find Henrietta’s owner, so again she took matters into her own hands. This time, she turned to North America’s most popular lost-and-found service, Craigslist. Amidst the more traditional posts for missing keys, wallets, cats and dogs, Hollingdale posted an
She also took to Twitter in search of the hen’s owner. “Did anyone lose a chicken near @RenfrewParkCC?,” tweeted Hollingdale, who then specified the suspected breed. “Could be an Old English Game.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Henrietta.
Hollingdale asked that people call to identify the chicken. No one called.
While the urban chicken population has grown over the past couple of years – over 90 people have now registered their flocks – chickens on the run are not commonplace in Vancouver.
Animal control takes in two to 10 chickens a year. And not all of these lost chickens have escaped from urban coops. Some of the birds are found after falling from poultry trucks.
“We usually get a pretty even split between backyard chickens and broiler chickens. A chicken here or there falls off the truck when they are on their way to the rendering plant,” explained Sarah Hicks, a manager at animal control.
Henrietta goes to the farm
After five days, Hollingdale still hadn’t received any replies to her “found chicken” ad.
Knowing that her apartment was not a long-term solution for Henrietta, Hollingdale searched the Internet and called around to animal shelters and local farms to find a home for the chicken.
Farmer Jordan Maynard, at Southlands Farm, was happy to oblige.
At the farm, Maynard had another surprise for Hollingdale.
Henrietta may have been more aptly called “Henry.” Henrietta was, in fact, a rooster.
Still on the run
As urban chicken farming grows in popularity, the probability of finding a lost chicken will increase, creating a need for broader awareness about how residents should handle stray poultry.
In fact, another Vancouverite may have the chance to find Henry for a second time.
The day after Hollingdale dropped Henry off at the farm, a dog ran through a flock of the farm’s chickens, dispersing all the birds.
During the excitement, Henry ran off again and has not been seen since.