Chicken Enthusiasts Gather in Crown Heights

Tell someone you want to raise chickens in New York City and you'll likely get a glaring side eye and a slew of objections. Urban chicken keepers often face questions about space, safety, smells, and sounds. Luckily City Chicken Institute is dispelling the myth that there’s no room for chickens in our cityscape.

New York Restoration Project, partnering with Just Food, presents monthly workshops with Lydia Schmidt and the happy hens of Imani Community Garden in Crown Heights.

On June 9, a group of 15 current and prospective chicken keepers gathered in the back of the garden to discuss caring for urban chickens. June’s workshop focused on the basics, with tips and tricks for chicken enthusiasts.

The group started by listing the pros of keeping chickens. At the top of everyone's list was fresh eggs! An egg laid by a happy, healthy chicken and brought to the table that same day doesn't compare with store bought. The goodness doesn't stop with eggs. Chickens are tremendous pest controllers. They'll keep hungry insects out of your garden. But be careful, because roaming chickens will eat the produce from your garden too. Chickens feces also creates a very healthy fertilizer high in nitrogen. Lydia pointed out the site of the old chicken coop, which has-by no coincidence-the richest soil on the plot. The group mentions one final pro: the companionship of chickens. Chickens have a load of personality and display fascinating social behavior. They were also described as “sweet” and “loving” by the group.

Despite these wonderful benefits, potential chicken keepers and their neighbors will still have questions. Just a one hour and a half introduction to basic chicken keeping addresses many of these concerns:

What about space? A chicken needs a minimum of four square feet in its coop. Keep in mind, you don’t want to be raising just one chicken. As social creatures, you want at least four so they can create a proper pecking order. Of course, you can give your chicken friends more space or just more time roaming. Chickens are curious, and even a modest yard would provide a small flock with plenty of entertainment.

What about safety? Educating yourself and taking good care of your flock will ensure safe chickens laying safe-to-eat eggs. As Lydia mentioned, it’s important to test your soil for lead. Lead in the soil can get into your eggs, but luckily soil test is something you can do on your own or even send out to a university. Chickens may attract predators, so you’ll want to secure your coop with chicken wire or hardware fabric.

What about smells? A well cared for flock, even in the city, won’t smell. As any chicken owner will attest, chickens are messy. Luckily their waste quickly composts when you add some dry material like coffee chaff. You can also build auto watering and auto feeding systems to help them keep their coops even tidier.

What about sounds? People often expect chickens to crow all day, but those people are thinking about male chickens. Roosters (male chickens) are the ones who mostly crow but are illegal to keep in New York City. Some hens (female chickens) make more noise than others, but you can learn about quiet breeds before you adopt your chickens.

Convinced? Need to learn more? Or maybe you just want to meet some of these lovely city chickens? Come learn more with City Chicken Institute every second Thursday of the month. We’ll be gathered at 87 Schenectady Ave in Brooklyn, clucking about these winged wonders.

The next workshop will take place on July 14th and will dive further into keeping your chickens safe and how to identify predators. You can find more information on the meetup page and on the NYRP calendar!