The newest urban trend to hit Brooklyn isn’t actually new — and there’s nothing “urban” about it.
Many Brooklynites are rediscovering the joy of old-fashioned farming by raising chickens in their backyards. The birds are easy to care for, produce delicious eggs, and even make great pets, chicken-keepers say.
“Chickens are interesting, because they’re both pets and food,” said Noah Leff, who owns three chickens of his own. “You develop an emotional attachment with them.”
Leff’s three chickens, which produce about 18 eggs a week, roam around his backyard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, scaring his cat and digging for worms. His neighbors don’t mind though — but then again, he gives them free eggs.
Across the street, the Walt Shamel Community Garden has also jumped on the chicken bandwagon: it has seven hens of its own. Members of the garden take turns caring for the chickens and share the eggs that they produce.
“A few garden members were skeptical at first,” said Greg Anderson, president of the garden. “But now we get a lot more visitors. People will come in just to see the chickens. Kids love them.”
And the chicken craze isn’t limited to Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Rebecca Lax, who lives on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, has raised three chicken broods and said that each bunch became a part of the family.
“They think of you as their parent,” said Lax. “Every time I sat down in the garden, one would jump into my lap.”
Lax said that her entire family was charmed by the chickens, and maintained that they never bothered the neighbors — until one escaped the backyard and hid in a neighbor’s tree.
“We only pissed off that one neighbor,” she said. “Everyone else was totally into it.”
Lots of Brooklynites are “into it” these days, partially thanks to Leff, who started a company that helps urbanites set up their own chicken coops. Victory Chicken, which only started in May, has helped customers in neighborhoods across the borough, including Red Hook, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, and Park Slope.
“It gives the whole backyard a nice pastoral feel,” said Mark Ginsberg, one of Leff’s clients.
His girlfriend has become emotionally attached to the chickens, and named each after a chicken preparation (like General Tso and McNugget) — even though she says she could never eat them. Lax, too, said she would be unable to cook her chickens because they’ve become too much like pets.
“I would never eat my chickens,” she said. “I get too emotionally involved.”
But Leff said that he would probably eat his hens after they stopped laying eggs, and wouldn’t be too upset about it because he would know that they had lived good chicken lives.
“I’m sure I’ll feel sad when I eat them,” said Leff. “But I’ll also feel hungry and then I’ll feel full.”