The Diederichs are one of 12 households chosen for city pilot project
ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO the Packet & Times Peter Diederichs holds one of the four hens he and his wife Angela are raising in their Orillia backyard under the city's two-year pilot project.
Mika, Connie, Dolly and Polly just love tomatoes.
And that's good news because Angela and Peter Diederichs have a healthy crop of tomatoes in their backyard, not far from the coop where the four hens now reside.
"They'll eat pretty much anything, except avocados," Angela explained.
The Diederichs jumped at the chance to be involved with Orillia's two-year pilot project allowing some residents to raise hens in their backyards.
So after building a coop, they travelled to a farm auction in Woodville to purchase some chickens, but came away empty handed. By chance, they began speaking to a man who operated a farm near Pefferlaw and was able to provide four red sex-links. The birds had to be at least four months old so their sex could be determined since roosters are not allowed under the pilot.
So they returned to the city with Mika, Connie, Dolly and Polly and placed them in the impressive coop Peter built earlier this year.
The yellow-painted structure features a nesting box, perches and a door that can be closed securely at night to ensure nosy raccoons or other critters don't bother the quartet.
There's also an attached, fenced run where the hens enjoy the great outdoors and partake in a favourite activity: Dirt baths.
"They're always penned up, never loose," Peter said. "They dig little holes in the ground and give themselves a bath. They're fun to watch."
In all, the city's allowing 12 homeowners - three in each of the four wards - to raise hens in their backyards, provided they meet a number of requirements, including a minimum lot area of 500 square metres. The hen coop and run must be at least eight metres away from any dwelling and three metres away from the lot line. No more than four hens can be on any lot at any one time.
The Diederichs' are happy they opted to get involved.
"We've had them since June. We spent most of the summer sitting in chairs watching them," Angela joked. "They're quite entertaining. They're now about six months old."
Each hen now produces an egg a day with brown-coloured shells that are a lot harder than regular white eggs purchased at a grocery store.
"They're probably thicker because the hens are happier," Peter said. "They're not in a cage all day and have space to roam."