Don’t let a small living space keep you from taking part in the latest eco-/foodie/sustainable-living trends. City-dwellers have found ways to garden without a yard, compost without attracting rats, and keep bees without killing the neighbors.
One family in New York even found a way to raise two egg-laying chickens inside their Manhattan apartment. Two-story chicken coop and everything!
Christine Pittel writes in The New York Times about how a plan to temporarily house two baby chicks turned into nearly a year of caring for two surprisingly intelligent, easy — if not feathered — roommates.
It all started when Pittel’s daughter Isabella attempted to rescue a sick baby chick they came across while on a weekend in the country. The chick died after a few days in their Manhattan home. Isabella was devastated and the country friend, on a subsequent visit to the city, brought two healthy chicks for the girl to care for.
The chicks grew, as healthy baby animals tend to do, and Pittel upgraded their living quarters — first a shoebox, then a paper box, next a furniture box — each time one was able to fly the cardboard coop, so to speak. Eventually, Isabella’s father got in on the better housing act, as healthy grown-up architects tend to do, and the two erected an enormous chicken coop in the middle of a room.
The chickens loved it. Pittel and her family loved the chickens, who, eventually, started laying eggs.
But like every story of children taming the wild, the arrangement wouldn’t last forever. One of the chickens was desperate for her own chicks. She needed to be cooped up with a rooster.
Pittel writes in The New York Times:
Even Isabella understood that it would be unfair to keep the chickens from having their own families. We had to let them go back to the Berkshires. Through tears, my daughter decided that the logical time to do it was when she went to summer camp, because she couldn’t bear to witness the departure.
And back they went to their loving country cousins.
Pittel doesn’t mention whether her neighbors complained, but I’m guessing they didn’t. She’s also got a decent-sized space, it appears — not sprawling but enough that the chicken coop didn’t take up every free square foot of flooring. I think it’s interesting that this family, who weren’t particularly livestock-focused, came to not just tolerate — but embrace — their life with chickens.
Even toward the end, Pittel’s not exactly anxious to get rid of them. She puts off the call to her friends who will take the grown hens back.
Isabella went off to camp, Joseph left on business, and I was alone with the chickens. I thought I would be eager to get rid of the nuisance and the mess, but I found myself postponing the call to Tiziana. Isabella and I had raised these chickens from bits of fluff. They actually came when she called. I always checked on them at night before I went to bed, just as I checked on Isabella.
Pittel and Isabella didn’t get into chickens as a way of stretching their food dollars or cutting back on waste or meeting a goal of more sustainable living. But their arrangement shows some of the possibilities of all those things if you start small and make adjustments along the way. I can’t help but envy the experience her daughter got raising and caring for and interacting with chickens.
That said, birds sort of freak me out. Plus, we have a dog. There will be no coops in my tiny, city home.
What about you? Have you ever thought about raising chickens?
Chickening out? No worries, with our Top 10 Low Maintenance Family Pets!