Urban chicken coop OK’d by city

Whitehorse's newest residents are living in Kristina Calhoun's backyard pen. Calhoun became the first to get a permit to house backyard chickens after a new city bylaw was passed.

Whitehorse’s newest residents are living in Kristina Calhoun’s backyard pen.

Calhoun became the first to get a permit to house backyard chickens after a new city bylaw was passed. The birds, little balls of yellow fuzz, rest atop wood chips, huddling together and bathing in the warmth provided by the pen’s heat lamp.

Calhoun has become known as the “chicken lady” after leading the charge to have Whitehorse’s bylaws amended to allow up to six hens.

It’s a process that began three years ago, when Calhoun began keeping six roosters and six hens in her Riverdale yard, only to eventually learn that city regulations prohibited owning poultry or pigeons except in designated country residential subdivisions.

After a neighbour complained about the sound of the roosters, it kicked off a battle with the city that finally came to an end this month.

Bylaw officers were out at Calhoun’s residence earlier in the week to inspect the pen, made by Calhoun and her husband from recycled material. With her licence laminated and prominently displayed on the front, officials deemed it fit to raise her brood. Five other Whitehorse residents are in the process of seeking similar permits.

Calhoun’s original pen had to be rebuilt to fit city regulations, as bylaw requires it to be at least one metre from neighbouring property lines.

Calhoun petitioned city council in 2011, drumming up local support on her mission to make backyard chickens legal. She referenced other cities – Vancouver, Toronto and New York City among them – that allow chickens and the benefits backyard farming brings into communities.

“Once you set up for it, it’s not hard,” she said, standing beside her pen on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a great way to have fresh eggs. I know exactly where they came from, what feed they had, I don’t have to worry about antibiotics or anything and I don’t need to run to the store if I run out of eggs.”

For Calhoun, the Yukon’s Green Party leader, the issue at the heart of it is much larger than just having permission to keep chickens – what she’s most concerned about is food security.

“We all know what happens when the trucks can’t come up the highway,” she said.

“I think its really important that municipal, federal, and territorial governments remove as many boundaries as they can to allow people to be as self-sufficient as they can, especially in an isolated community like this.”

While six chickens are allowed under the new bylaw, most hatcheries have a minimum order of 25 chicks. Calhoun would like to see the six chicken limit lifted, at least seasonally, such as allowing residents to keep 25 birds from May 1 to September 1.

“Then the city and everyone else would know those chickens would be butchered on September 1 and you keep your remaining six over the winter,” she said. “It would be a really easy way to promote food security, having your meat birds right in your backyard and knowing everything they are eating.”

Calhoun said lifting the limit would also allow other people to raise the broods, the most work intensive part of keeping chickens, and then return them to their owners when they are closer to fully grown and capable of looking after themselves and regulating their own temperatures.

Calhoun ordered her chickens from Miller Hatchery in Edmonton and after keeping six, the remaining chicks went to the 10-Mile House, a local community farming group.

Being part of the local farming network is one of the most enjoyable aspects of keeping the birds, said Calhoun.

In her own neighbourhood a local economy has popped up around them.

She’s able to trade a dozen eggs to one neighbour for a freshly baked loaf of bread, or to another for vegetables grown in their greenhouse.

“There’s this exchange going on right here in the neighbourhood and everyone benefits,” she said. Her neighbours have already placed their orders. “They know they’ll be getting some eggs,” she laughed.

The chickens are butchered in a mobile abattoir. Last year, teaming up with members of Growers of Organic Food Yukon, Calhoun slaughtered 220 chickens in a Saturday afternoon.

“It’s almost like an underground food network, and I love knowing we have it here,” she said.

“If people want to try and do something they should be allowed to. Not everyone is going to want to, but if you do there is this local food network to grow and share and support.”

Contact Sam Riches at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read