Property insurance and chickens: what to know as Toronto's pilot project takes off


Back in March, Toronto launched its UrbanHensTO pilot project, that allows people residing in song from the city to keep up to four chickens in their yards until March 2021.

Keeping chickens in your yard has a couple of benefits. Should you garden, their waste creates great, high-nutrient fertilizer; if they are laying, you'll have access to fresh eggs; and, by raising them yourself, you'll have the opportunity to create a more nuanced knowledge of where our food comes from – which is sadly rare at a time when industrial agriculture may be the golden standard, developing a disconnect from the farmers, migrant workers, chemicals, and animals that toil for its sake.

But we aren't just here to extol the virtues of our feathered friends. At, we're thinking about the financial impact of your decisions, which is why today's mission would be to investigate one specific facet of raising chickens on your own: the way it will affect your home insurance.

In the past year, home insurers have had to reply to changes in Canadian legislation. The upcoming legalization of weed, for instance, has prompted some insurers to increase rates for people who grow medical cannabis, or perhaps cancel their policies altogether.

So since backyard chickens – which have inspired more controversy than you may think – have officially entered Toronto's urban makeup, we couldn't help but wonder: might they prompt an identical response from insurance companies?

We speak with Matt Alston, co-founder of broker Surex Direct, to find out what insurers are planning.

Insurers: could they be losing it?

“The first thing that any broker is gonna ask is the 'why' behind it – the reason,” Alston says, of the decision to raise chickens. “Are you raising a few hens so you can have fresh eggs and employ them on your own? Or perhaps is the intention [to get] enough hens where you're actually getting enough eggs and selling them in a farmer's market, or trying to commercialize your produce?”

If the answer is the second, Alston says, then property insurance won't work – you may need an entirely different type of policy (e.g., an industrial one). Luckily, the City of Toronto has simplified things by making it illegal for chicken proprietors to sell eggs laid in their backyards.

So, let's say you're just raising chickens for your own personel enjoyment? Alston states that the very best course of action is to speak to your broker about steps you can take – and he's guessing they would not be difficult, or even significant, ones.

“I don't see carriers really losing it about somebody having two hens in their backyard [if] they don't make a sale, they do not have customers,” he states. Alston adds that brokers can directly contact a customer's insurance provider, and work with these to develop provisions to protect a customer's home. But, the alterations likely wouldn't be huge, and customers definitely wouldn't require an entirely different policy altogether.

Also, he adds, “This isn't going to void your home insurance, basically. That's what I think people are concerned about.”

Alston notes that many individuals rural areas own chickens, or even cows and horses, and while they typically do pay higher premiums than people residing in cities, that's because rural homes tend to be vulnerable to “climate events” like hailstorms or windstorms.

“You just don't have as big of the water risk in a condo building while you do in a small town, single family home that's Eighty years old.”

Chickens, in other words, have little related to it.

Will your rate change?

If it does – and there's a chance it won't – it definitely will not be by much.

“What drives prices are risk,” Alston explains. “So when not a large warning sign for somebody to have a hobby farm, [if] somebody includes a small yard just in Toronto and they've two chickens, that risk is going to be the same.”

What about insurance for that chickens themselves?

There's protecting your home on the one hand, but then there's protecting your chickens.

There are predators in rural Ontario, but they're definitely of a different sort than you'll find in a city like Toronto. And when your chickens are attacked or get sick, property insurance won't cover their medical bills – just like it won't if your dog isn't feeling well.

But, guess what happens will? Insurance for your pet.

“Pet insurance coverage is very, extremely popular in Canada,” Alston attests. He adds that if you're looking for insurance to cover chickens, the chances are you will need to find an entirely separate policy in the one that covers your other pets.