Frontier Psychiatrist

Brooklyn Hipster Chicks – The Chicken Meetup

Posted on: August 18, 2011

A Haven for Chickens in Brooklyn

We didn’t know very much about chickens when we received ours in May, but as with most things (a kitten or puppy, a 100-year-old house, and I assume human babies), a lot of the experience is learn as you go. Still, I wanted to make sure we were doing right by our hens. The friend who had gifted the chickens to us had emailed us a link to a chicken Meetup group in Brooklyn. Hey, we thought, there are Meetup groups for Howard Dean, Historical Fiction and owners of smushed face dogs. Why not check it out?

The Just Food City Chicken Meetup, run by nonprofit organization Just Food, is described as such: Meet other NYC chicken enthusiasts! Come together to explore chicken coops, attend workshops, share information and resources and celebrate city chickens. This group is for the beginner and experienced alike.

Are we enthusiasts? Sorta. And we’re beginners and kind of get off on bragging about our hens. So off we went!

The meetup was held at Imani Garden, a community garden in Crown Heights managed by the New York Restoration Project. In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, the garden also partners with BK Farmyards, who care for 60 free-range chickens, provide community education and also run a fresh egg CSA (community-supported agriculture, for those of you non-hipster/non-yuppies out there, which allows people to buy a “share” of locally-grown food).

Amazingly, the meetup was walking distance from our house. Living in central Bed Stuy, this almost never happens.  Who knew there were 60 happy free-range chickens of all sizes and colors living just across Atlantic Avenue?

Happy Hens at the Chicken Meetup

The meetup group was a mix of age, race and sex. We went around our circle explaining why we had come. Several attendees were a part of BK Farmyards’ Chicken Apprenticeship Program (almost exclusively hipsters). One older woman was about to retire and move to the south, and was considering raising chickens there. The oddest of the group was a teenage girl who simply explained, “I just…really…like chickens.” she brought her boyfriend along, and he looked both amused and embarrassed. We were the only ones in the group who were both not affiliated with the program and actually owned chickens.

While our chickens are plenty beautiful when you take a look at their feathers, we saw a virtual chicken rainbow at the meetup. White, black, brown, iridescent, spotted, speckled. Had our hens not been gifted, I personally would have chosen a black and white variety.

This Chick's More My Style

Most interesting were the random facts we learned. For example:

  • Chickens can live up to 12 years.
  • Chickens originated in the jungle, which is why they roost to sleep (!!!!)

Jungle Chicken

  • Chickens really like shiny things, like jewels. (This explains why Potpie is always trying to peck my engagement ring!)
  • Chicken ovulation is related to the amount of sunlight in a day (and in the winter, our chickens probably won’t lay daily like they do in the summer).
  • Chickens clean themselves by taking dirt baths. (I know. It makes no sense.) this explains why they are always digging holes and then rolling around in them, even snuggling each other while they do it!

A Nice, Clean Dirt Bath

We also learned that “heritage breeds” are less likely to lay one egg a day, and instead spread their laying out over more years. (Like human women, chickens are born with a fixed capacity for eggs.)  Our hens, Red Sex Links, are a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns, bred to lay all of their eggs upfront for efficiency (between seeing their beaks clipped and learning this fact, it makes me even happier that we are giving them a backyard home).

Another crucial lesson: delousing a chicken. Apparently most chickens get poultry lice in their lifetime (ew). We first learned how to look for the lice (under the feathers, near the wing) and then treat them with louse powder. Method one: turn the chicken upside down, hold her by the feet and massage the powder into her skin (you can imagine how much the chickens enjoy this). Method two is the “bag method.” Unfortunately we did not get to see this method in action, as a threatening rain cloud rolled in and the chickens got spooked. Holding up the bag to begin the demo, our instructors decided to cut our meetup short to chase squawking chickens around the garden, rounding them up towards the pen. From what I gather, the bag method is this: Sprinkle louse powder into a canvas bag. Put chicken into bag, head sticking out. Shake bag. Release chicken.

In case you’re wondering, no, we haven’t checked the girls for poultry lice. But if we ever want to, now we know how.

Total egg count: 105

Total freakishly-large double yolk egg count: 1

Robin Lester Kenton lives in Stuyvesant Heights with her husband, deaf Chihuahua, two kittens, and two chickens. She is documenting her urban farming adventure at Frontier Psychiatrist and at generaltsoandpotpie.tumblr.comRead the previous installments of this series here.

Would have been twins if there were a cock around


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