Frontier Psychiatrist

Brooklyn Hipster Chicks

Posted on: June 15, 2011

Mail Order Chicks

“What?!” 

That is almost always the reaction when I tell friends and family I am the proud owner of two chickens. In Brooklyn. In my back yard. The difference is the tone in which it is said.

From foodies, of whom I know many, the word ‘what’ is laced with enthusiasm at the thought of organic brunch. From other new homeowners, the tone bears opportunity. Maybe we, too, can do this in our yard! From friends in other cities, as well as friends with children, the reaction is delighted.  What a strange and magical idea! May our children come see them? And then there is the suburban sorority sister contingent, who act puzzled and slightly annoyed, as if to ask, “What next? Composting?” (Answer: yes. The bin has just been ordered from Amazon.com.)

Our Little Ladies

“What?!” is usually followed up with questions, including:

  • What do you mean, you got chickens?
  • Why would you do that?
  • Is that even legal?
  • Do you need a permit?
  • Do they lay eggs?
  • How do you take care of them?
  • Where did you get them?
  • Don’t they shit everywhere?
  • Are you going to eat them?

The answers, in brief:

  • 
We now own two chickens, who live in our back yard.
  • 
Because urban farming seems very contemporary cool and because someone gave them to us.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Yes.
  • Make sure they have food and water, keep their area clean.
  • 
Someone got them from a farm upstate to use in a modern dance performance, and then gave them to us (Follow up answer: No, they didn’t end up being in the show.)
  • Yes.
  • No (though my husband says yes).

General Tso

The chickens came into our lives sooner than I had planned. I had been intrigued by the ideals of hip urban farming: chickens, a bee hive on the roof (and then selling artisanal honey for $50 a jar at the Brooklyn Flea), etc, etc. I had even gone so far as to research attractive chicken coops (more on this next time), and my mother-in-law even offered to get us baby chicks for Easter.

I didn’t feel quite ready to take the plunge though, until I received a Facebook message from a friend of my husband’s. A modern dancer, she was hoping to have a single chicken in an upcoming show.  She wanted the chicken to live comfortably during this time and asked if it could live in our yard during the day. In return, we could keep the chicken after the show was done! She wrote:

I found some chickens for sale on a farm on the Hudson Valley in Saugerities, NY . The chickens are Red Sex Links and come from a hatchery. They are a mix bred of Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn. They are about 20 weeks old, teenagers. I told the farmer, Mary I was interested in chickens that were not laying eggs yet because I wanted to get to know them first before the eggs come, she told me I was going to like these chickens because they were very friendly and don’t squawk and get scared when they see humans. Maybe you know this, if so, pardon the redundancy, but she also let me know that the chickens laying eggs is no big thing for them. It takes about 15 minutes of the day and then they move on.

Potpie

I told her I was interested in one chicken, but she told me she would not sell me one because chickens need a friend. It didn’t strike me as odd when she said this because chicken for sale postings have mentioned things like “Will not sell just one. Only the entire flock.” And so forth. She also told me the risk with only taking two is if one doesn’t make it then you have to find the other one a friend.

Also, did you know chickens can fly? I feel like an idiot. I knew they fluttered, but I didn’t realize they could get up into the air. 

No, I didn’t know that they could fly, nor that they needed to have a friend. And when the dancer decided that it would be fairly impossible to have chickens in a modern dance performance (you, dear reader, probably called this a few paragraphs ago), they came right over to live with us.

They arrived in a dog crate, with soft bronze feathers and small brown eyes. They cooed and clucked quietly, wrapping their rubbery yellow toes around their makeshift perch.  As night fell, they fell asleep next to each other, their little eyes blinking shut.

Robin Lester Kenton lives in Stuyvesant Heights with her husband, deaf Chihuahua, two kittens and now two chickens. She is documenting her urban farming adventure at Frontier Psychiatrist and at generaltsoandpotpie.tumblr.com.

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7 Responses to "Brooklyn Hipster Chicks"

General Tso stands sultry, whereas Potpie’s a bit dainty. I think you might consider a line of tween novels about them. 🙂 Also? “wrapping their rubbery yellow toes around their makeshift perch.” Isn’t this what we all do when we find ourselves in strange new places? May the chicken tales continue!

Ok, but I have to ask: What happens in the winter? Do they come live inside with you? Are chickens winter-proof??!! Amazing the number of things one does not know about chickens!!

Mayumi- your questions will be answered later in this series!

Suz- Potpie is actually the alpha chicken, even though she has a smaller comb.

Someone needs to name a record “Red Sex Links” ASAP.

Chickens don’t like snow but are pretty okay in the winter. Just have to be sure their water doesn’t freeze. They sell these things that keep the waterer from freezing and it makes my life better than most any other chicken gadget. A house with protection from wind but with good ventilation is much better than inviting them inside. The dog and cats just can’t abide by them and, yes, they shit anywhere and anytime the mood strikes.

[…] the Brooklyn Coop, which in this case does mean chickens (as you may have guessed if you read the first installment of Brooklyn Hipster Chicks). Chickens need a house to live in, and deciding on a solution for our […]

Thank god some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this post..

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