Riverdale resident cries fowl
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
So many people were keeping chickens in their backyards, Kristina Calhoun assumed it was OK.
That was until a bylaw officer showed up last week, issued her a warning and told her that she would have to get rid of her flock.
Calhoun had been living outside of town and keeping chickens on her property for the past few years.
When she moved to Riverdale last year, she set up a coop in her backyard.
Neighbours gave her conflicting reports about the legality of keeping chickens. Some told her it was OK, others told her it wasn’t.
“A lot of people in Riverdale have them so I thought it must be fine, otherwise people wouldn’t have them,” she said. “In retrospect, I should have taken the time to call the city.”
There are some neighbourhoods in Whitehorse where it is legal to keep chickens in a backyard, but Riverdale isn’t one of them.
“Right now the animal control bylaw specifically prohibits poultry except in country residential zones,” said Mike Gau, the city’s planning and development manager.
When the Official Community Plan was adopted a few years ago, there was a lot of support for the idea of urban chickens, he said.
“The city wants to encourage local food production,” said Gau. “It’s one of our objectives in the OCP and the sustainability plan and chickens are definitely part of that.
“That doesn’t mean that it will be allowed everywhere, because sometimes it’s not appropriate.”
Though the city is in support of the idea, making it legal will mean changing both zoning and the animal control bylaws.
City planners are currently working on a major bylaw rewrite, and urban chickens are something that it’s considering, sad Gau.
“We hope to have a draft bylaw before council in December,” he said.
In the meantime, Calhoun will be appearing before city council on Tuesday to make sure that the issue gets a hearing.
She was told that she only had two weeks to get rid of her chickens.
Her hope is that council will grant a reprieve for all the people that are violating the bylaw but may not know it.
“I’ve put quite a bit of money into my flock and I don’t want to get rid of them at this point if two months from now they’re going to pass the bylaw,” said Calhoun. “For me it comes down to access to healthy food. I know what’s gone into it and I know where my food has come from.”
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