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Egg Prices Are Insane, Creating a Boon for the Brooklyn Backyard Chicken!

Now, with the increased egg prices, the farm-to-table backyard movement is expecting new members, and Brooklyn's veteran chicken keepers have advice for those who are joining.
Chickens in Kensington. Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.

Keeping backyard chickens has always been a New York City thing. A front-page article in the Park Slope food coop newsletter asked in a 2009 edition, “What pre-gentrification East Villager never heard a rooster crow?” Though roosters are now illegal in the city, the hen-raising scene is booming again with the recent rise in egg prices due to the long-lasting avian flu.

At the intersection of Newkirk Avenue and East 8th Street in Kensington is a small community garden. However, plants and flowers aren’t the main attraction.

Pecking between the garden steel wire fence and a tall planter bed are seven hens, including two adolescents. One dog-walking neighbor stayed for a while so her dog could watch the poultry. She said a stop at the coop is a regular part of her daily routine.

When BK Reader visited the garden, the chickens were seen wandering along the sidewalk and between parked cars.

“They have become a part of the neighborhood,” Joseph, who teaches Russian in the poultry owner's house, said. “The family got the chickens during Covid because there wasn’t much for their kids to do, and they really loved it.”

Helen Spencer, a Newkirk Community Garden correspondent, said the chickens are very popular with passers-by. 

“Children are especially interested in them,” Spencer said. 

Cluck! Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.
Cluck! Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.

Joseph said the chickens lay eggs, but not as frequently during the winter months. Alex LaMond, a city gardener and a go-to person for chicken-related questions, said fewer eggs in the colder months are expected and a good signal.

“Hens ceasing laying in the depths of winter is a sign of robust health. They know they need a break. Then as soon as the sun starts tilting toward spring, it's on,” she wrote in an Instagram post.  LaMond has a backyard full of fowl, and she documents their actions on her Instagram — a good place for chicken enthusiasts to learn how to keep chickens.

In a local Crown Heights convenience store, a dozen eggs cost $5.99. In a nearby Ideal Food Basket, well-known for its affordable selection of foods, a dozen ranges from $5.49-$7.99.

Egg price hikes are a nationwide issue. People are looking for egg substitutions or reducing egg consumption altogether. And some, looking for a more sustainable farm-to-table approach, are thinking about raising backyard chickens. Simone Mogul, a long-time Brooklyn chicken farmer before her move to Philadelphia, offered some advice on this activity.

Egg prices at Ideal Food Basket. Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.
Egg prices at Ideal Food Basket. Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.

“I expect that with the price of eggs so high many people will decide to raise chickens. People really need to do some research before blindly going ahead,” Mogul told BK Reader in an email. “The first thing people need to do before going ahead is to TEST YOUR SOIL.” 

It turned out that Mogul's soil was contaminated with lead after years of paint on the house, which her chickens digested. She went and had her soil and eggs investigated by a Brooklyn College expert, and the recommendation was not to eat or sell the eggs.

Luckily, the hens weren’t hurt by the lead and all lived a long time. 

“Coops should NOT BE HEATED during the winter,” Mogul added. She does, however, suggest a fan for the summertime.

Tranquility Farm and the new, glowed-up chicken coop. Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.
Tranquility Farm and the new, glowed-up chicken coop. Photo: Thao Nguyen for BK Reader.

For new and soon-to-be chicken owners in Brooklyn, or chicken enthusiasts who have no backyard space and want to join a community garden, GreenThumb and Tranquility Farm will team up this March to provide a chicken-raising workshop.

“In this training with the chicken caretakers at Tranquility Farm in Brooklyn, GreenThumb community gardeners will review the basics of chicken care, chicken health and biology, coop structure and maintenance, and more. Gardeners who complete the training may be eligible to receive a new chicken coop, while supplies last," GreenThumb's announcement reads.

To no surprise, participants will find LaMond among the veteran chicken caretakers. The sign-up is available until March 13, at 5:00pm.

Thao Nguyen

About the Author: Thao Nguyen

Thao Nguyen is a New York City-based reporter, writer, and poet originally from Vietnam.
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