The UrbanHensTO pilot program allows residents to have urban hens in four wards across the City of Toronto. It is prohibited to keep hens that are not registered with the City of Toronto or are outside of the pilot area.
Infectious Diseases Associated with Live Poultry
A common concern is the transmission of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria from live poultry to humans. Live poultry are known to carry Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria in their droppings and on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean. The bacteria can get on coops, feed and water dishes, as well as plants and soil in the area where the birds live and roam. Bacteria can also get on the hands, shoes, and clothes of people who handle and care for the birds. People become infected with Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria when they put their hands or equipment that has been in contact with live poultry in or around their mouth.
Another potential concern with backyard poultry or any pet birds cared for outdoors is the transmission of avian influenza (“bird flu”) from sick wild birds to your backyard flock. Your backyard flock may be at risk of catching bird flu when wild birds migrate to and through Canada in the spring and fall. For more information on bird flu, visit Toronto Public Health’s webpage on Other Diseases Transmissible from Animals to Humans.
People at Higher Risk
Certain groups of people are at increased risk of infection. Children younger than 5 years of age have an increased risk of infection that can cause serious illness. This is due to their developing immune systems and frequent hand-to-mouth activities. Elderly individuals and people with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk.
Protect Yourself & Your Birds From Bird Flu or Other Diseases
- Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling live poultry, eggs or anything in the environment where they live and roam; use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should supervise handwashing by young children
- Children younger than 5 years of age, elderly individuals and people with weakened immune systems should avoid handling live poultry
- Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat and drink around live poultry
- Do not let live poultry inside your home, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored
- Designate and identify a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of your home and clean them regularly
- Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used for caring for live poultry
- Prevent contact of your birds with wild birds and other animals
- Frequently clean poultry coops, waterers, feeders, your clothing and your boots.
- Do not borrow or share equipment with other bird owners
- Be aware of the signs of bird flu (avian influenza) in birds. If you suspect your birds may be sick with bird flu, report early; bird owners are legally responsible to notify authorities of serious bird diseases such as bird flu. Call a veterinarian or your nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Animal Health office if you suspect your birds have bird flu
- Do not have people outside of your household visit your flock
- If receiving or adding any new birds, keep them separate when entering your flock
- For additional steps for Biosecurity for Small Flocks, visit the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs webpage on avian influenza