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Backyard chickens gain pandemic traction in Kamloops

Rena Whitehouse's silkie chickens at her Batchelor Heights home in Kamloops.
Image Credit: Rena Whitehouse
March 21, 2021 - 7:00 AM

When Christmas 2020 rolled around in Kamloops resident Rena Whitehouse's household, it was a holiday unique for reasons more than the pandemic.

Among the holiday blessings Whitehouse could count were a pair of small, fluffy, and many might say - adorable - silkie chickens, which joined in on the festivities in her home Christmas morning.

"My wife was not in favour of it, it took me about five years of talking her into it, so she let me and agreed to it... so we got two silkie chickens," Whitehouse told

Turns out, her household was one of a growing number in Kamloops last year that joined the ranks of those with urban chickens.

"I've had many types of pets: reptiles, birds, dogs, cats, turtles, fish. But I like to have something different," Whitehouse said. "I find chicks, my grandma had them, they're kind of soothing. You know, during this pandemic, all of us are fighting off depression and loneliness, and (it's) something to make your heart happy."

Rena Whitehouse's urban hen enclosure in Batchelor Heights.
Rena Whitehouse's urban hen enclosure in Batchelor Heights.
Image Credit: Rena Whitehouse

But as Whitehouse says, urban hens aren't only being used for comfort.

Some people are taking on hens simply for consumption and are animals known as "meat chickens", while other owners want them for their eggs.

No matter how they're used, stats released to show a sharp increase in their popularity in 2020.

As you can see in this breakdown from Kamloops city there were 33 households which were granted urban hen registrations in 2020, more than triple from 2019, with a total of 56 registrations in Kamloops currently:

  • 2021 - 3 registrations
  • 2020 - 33 registrations
  • 2019 - 9 registrations
  • 2018 - 11 registrations

Whitehouse, meanwhile, faced the daunting reality of trying to find a pair of hens in a population heavy with roosters.

"What I've learned over this last not-quite-a-year is there are way more roosters than hens. So I actually went through six silky chicks (since July) before I actually got two hens. And that's a pretty good ratio, pretty common... obviously no one wants to live near a rooster in an urban area," Whitehouse said.

The task of discerning what sex a silkie chicken happens to be is difficult during the initial months after birth. And it was difficult for Whitehouse to re-home those she discovered were roosters, after becoming attached to the "little guys."

But her current hens, Fiona and Laverne, are enjoying their situation at Whitehouse's home, pecking around underneath her deck and in their enclosure at Whitehouse's home in Batchelor Heights, where there are two registered urban hen locations in that neighbourhood.

However, the most popular Kamloops neighbourhood for urban hens is Aberdeen, which has seven, according to City stats:

  1. Aberdeen - 7
  2. Westsyde - 5
  3. Barnhartvale - 4
  4. Sahali - 4
  5. North Shore - 3
  6. Brocklehurst - 3
  7. Downtown - 3
  8. Batchelor - 2
  9. Juniper - 1

Whitehouse says if you're considering hens as a hobby you should know while the initial investment is cheap - about $10 per chick, the added costs will mount quickly.

"I had to build a predator proof run. I built a 6-foot high... square enclosure. I had it fully encapsulated with half inch wire mesh so that a coyote wouldn't be able to dig under it just because I live very close to the grasslands (home to many predators)," Whitehouse said, adding the costs so far have amounted to about $1,500.

One of Rena Whitehouse's urban hens, a silkie chicken.
One of Rena Whitehouse's urban hens, a silkie chicken.
Image Credit: Rena Whitehouse

But she says the expense is definitely worth it.

"And these little guys, they're so cute, and you know you open up the door and they come running to you and they just make these soothing sounds when they're happy. And my wife who didn't want chickens ever is so in love with these two little chickens. She fusses over them way more than I ever do."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Darren Rathwell or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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