Community Garden Chickens Ruffle Feathers in Park Slope

Following on the heels of the school zoning drama of Park Slope comes a different neighborhood controversy, this one having to do with chickens. Neighbors are worried that eight hens at the Warren-St. Marks Community Garden will make noise and attract rats, and 160 Park Slope residents actually signed a petition trying to kick them out of the garden. The chickens are there for the winter months only; they live on Governors Island during the rest of the year. A bunch of news outlets attended a meeting Sunday at the garden about the dispute that was hosted by Councilman Steve Levin. The New York Times called it “rancorous and sometimes profane.” At the meeting, questions were raised about how inclusive the garden is of the rest of the Park Slope community. In the end, the community garden is private land and they’re legally able to house chickens if they want. But garden members agreed to hold a vote on the chickens’ fate and extend membership of the garden to more neighborhood residents. One garden visitor told the New York Daily News: “This whole debate is for people who have too much time on their hands. This is a Park Slope problem. People died today, and we are worried about chickens.”
Chickens Threaten to Divide Park Slope Community [NY Times]
Park Slope Hens to Stay for Now [NY Daily News]
Park Slope Residents Clucking Angry Over Foul Chicken Coop [Gothamist]
Photo by butter & oil

14 Comment

  • It’s important for people keeping chickens in the city to be considerate of their neighbors. While most perceived problems with chickens in the city are based on a lack of info, chickens can create some real annoyances, and these need to be managed. I don’t know any more than what the article tells us about the current showdown in Park Slope, but this has been my experience with the issues cited by residents in the article:

    Rodents: As the expert guy in the articles says, this issue is pretty easy to manage. Looks like the coop in question is using ½ inch hardware cloth on the run. I know commenters will probably say “rats can get through anything” but my experience has been that they can’t get through this. The coop looks like it will be secure if they care for it right.

    Noise: At night, unlikely, as hens don’t usually make any noise at night. During the daytime, however, including in the morning, noise can be a real issue. Chickens can make noise at a similar level of annoyance as a barking dog. Like dog owners, chicken owners in the city should take steps to minimize the noise coming from their pets.

    “stink, vermin, flies”: This is easily managed, especially with a coop of only 8 birds.

    Lead poisoning from the eggs: As recently reported, lead in garden soil can show up in chicken eggs. People who keep chickens should test their soil and remediate, if needed. People are also cautioned not to eat vegetables grown in high-lead soil or allow their children to play in it. Urban vegetable gardeners have been dealing with this issue for a long time, and have found easy ways to address it. Chicken folks should follow their example.

    Avian Flu: From the CDC: No HPAI H5N1 viruses have ever been identified in humans, poultry, wild birds or other animals in the United States. So, I guess whether you think this issue is a threat or not will probably depend on how likely you think it is for a disease never before found in the US to suddenly pop up among 8 birds kept in Park Slope.

    Maybe the garden can establish an advisory council of some of the concerned neighbors who can monitor the coop to see if it is truly producing the problems they suspect?

    • dnk

      victorychicken,

      Any thoughts or advice on how chicken owners can “take steps to minimize the noise coming from their pets” when those “pets” happen to be hens?

      I have had backyard hens for a while, and a couple of years back I had some issues with an “americana” (not “auricana” but, I think, related). She was a really noisy bird, and I was never able to get her to shut up. (How does one train a chicken?)

      Although my neighbors were gracious about it, I thought it was decidedly uncool to subject them to loud interminable squawking: so I decided to slaughter and make some soup! Not exactly my cup of tea, but I prepped myself by studying humane slaughter techniques on (where else?) youtube…. and I was all ready to go when the Great God in the Sky smiled upon me and smote the chicken in her own tracks: verily, she was fine one day and the next she was legs-up in the coop. And to add to the biblical-ness of it all, the other birds were (and are) perfectly fine. So I lucked out. Now I have 5 happy birds that don’t make noise and lay eggs. But all the same, any advice on how to deal with loud hens would be appreciated.

      • Hi dnk:

        First thing you can do is sound proofing to the extent that it is possible, though there’s usually not much that can be done other than thinking about coop placement vis a vis neighbor’s windows and fences (fences and trees can block some of the sound).

        After that, different people recommend different approaches. There’s the school of thought that says your chicken is noisy because it is freaked out and the best approach is to soothe it. I think the more common theory is that it is the chicken at the top of the pecking order asserting herself, and the recommended approach there is to try to take her down a couple of notches with a whack from a broom, or isolating her when she’s noisy. Mixing up the pecking order by swapping in and out a bird or two can also establish a new calm (though this could go in the other direction too).

        I had a bird that was making a little noise for a bit and I took to spraying her with a garden hose when she was noisy. I don’t know if I can attribute it to the hose, but after a week or so of this treatment she stopped being noisy. Googling the subject will provide many other strategies to try.

        Most birds will quiet down, either with prodding or on their own. But, sometimes you will end up with a bird that just won’t, no matter what you do. Ultimately, if I found myself in the position of having such a bird I would have also decided to relocate her to the soup pot.

      • Hi dnk:

        First thing you can do is sound proofing to the extent that it is possible, though there’s usually not much that can be done other than thinking about coop placement vis a vis neighbor’s windows and fences (fences and trees can block some of the sound).

        After that, different people recommend different approaches. There’s the school of thought that says your chicken is noisy because it is freaked out and the best approach is to soothe it. I think the more common theory is that it is the chicken at the top of the pecking order asserting herself, and the recommended approach there is to try to take her down a couple of notches with a whack from a broom, or isolating her when she’s noisy. Mixing up the pecking order by swapping in and out a bird or two can also establish a new calm (though this could go in the other direction too).

        I had a bird that was making a little noise for a bit and I took to spraying her with a garden hose when she was noisy. I don’t know if I can attribute it to the hose, but after a week or so of this treatment she stopped being noisy. Googling the subject will provide many other strategies to try.

        Most birds will quiet down, either with prodding or on their own. But, sometimes you will end up with a bird that just won’t, no matter what you do. Ultimately, if I found myself in the position of having such a bird I would have also decided to relocate her to the soup pot.

  • I’m all for chickens in the city, and this garden seems to be doing it responsibly and legally. But the NYT seems to be dancing around some undercurrent of race/class/gentrification conflict in this piece. Anybody know what the actual beef over the chickens is?

  • My neighbor has a few chickens and a rooster. The chickens are relatively innocuous but I could do with out the crowing of the rooster. Luckily, my bedroom in on the side of the building furthest from the chickens so most of the time I barely notice the noise.
    Bushwick attitudes about chickens are a bit different than those in Park Slope.

  • You’d think Park Slopers would be used to a bunch of cackling hens and cocks

  • These comments are truly appalling.

    These chickens are upstanding citizens and have all rights of any other neighborhood denizen.

    Look a bit more carefully when passing the garden; you’ll see some pushing little chick strollers, as well as
    LesbiHens, proudly strutting and holding wings while listening to Salmonella Ftizgerald on their micro-Ipods.

    Please try to be a bit more tolerant.

  • Typical puritan park slopers. people all over europe keep chickens.

  • Typical puritan park slopers. people all over europe keep chickens.

  • I didn’t think it was legal to keep roosters.

  • bigmissfrenchie

    My neighbor kept hens (no rooster) and they really did not make a lot of noise. In the morning, I would hear them clucking and making some little screechy sounds, but it’s actually a pleasant nature sound. He got rid of the chickens early in the summer, and I really missed hearing them in the morning.