Eat Drink Local Profile #10: City Chickens

From September 26th to October 6th Edible Manhattan, Edible East End and Edible Brooklyn — in conjunction with Edibles statewide and GrowNYC — present Eat Drink Local week, our celebration of the local food chain through heirloom vegetable auctions, wine tastings, DIY challenges, lectures, garden tours, farm to table dinners and countless other events. Over the next few weeks we’re highlighting a few of the restaurants, wine shops and wineries, breweries and beer bars, farms and food artisans and cultural institutions that the week is meant to celebrate.

The Urban Farm Animal:

City chickens. Yep, you can legally keep female birdies (no roosters!) as both beloved pets and producers of extra-fresh eggs right in your city backyard or on your rooftop terrace, landlord willing, usually in hand-built coops. Or also your community garden or business rooftop, such as in the case of Red Hook’s Sixpoint Brewery and Greenpoint’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm.

What They Do:

They lay eggs! One a day, usually, and they taste great. Backyard chickens also peck around, eating the insects in your yard and most of your veggie table scraps. According to Saskia Cornes’ Edible Brooklyn article on city chickens — it’s called Room with a Coo: “Each chicken can divert 84 pounds from the waste stream every year. If just 10 percent of the 930,000 New Yorkers with access to backyards kept three chickens (the minimum suggested flock size) for a year, that works out to almost 12 tons of organic waste that went from landfill to lunch, with the capacity to save the city over $11 million.” She adds: “You’re also cutting down on the greenhouse emissions associated with refrigerated transit and storage, especially when you take into account that a fresh, unwashed egg can sit safely on your counter for days.”

Why We Love Them:

Chickens do require plenty of work — you have to wake up to feed them, clean their crap, and let them out, just like any other pet, but the rewards your efforts are some of the best eggs you’ll eat. These ladies are also beautiful — so many colors and kinds, from Rhode Island Reds to Araucanas — and affectionate, too. Plus, Chickens mainly eat table scraps (they love leafy carrot tops) and thus are walking, bawking little composters: Consider their poo as incredible soil so rich you can practically sell it to gardening neighbors.

Where to Find Them:

Want to keep your own backyard birds or just learn more about the process? Just Food has a web page and  a support group just for New Yorkers who want to know exactly what to do.

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