Chicken man! This farmer is pushing urban ranching

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The newest urban trend to hit Brooklyn isn’t actually new — and there’s nothing “urban” about it.

Many Brooklynites are rediscovering the joy of old-fashioned farming by raising chickens in their backyards. The birds are easy to care for, produce delicious eggs, and even make great pets, chicken-keepers say.

“Chickens are interesting, because they’re both pets and food,” said Noah Leff, who owns three chickens of his own. “You develop an emotional attachment with them.”

Leff’s three chickens, which produce about 18 eggs a week, roam around his backyard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, scaring his cat and digging for worms. His neighbors don’t mind though — but then again, he gives them free eggs.

Across the street, the Walt Shamel Community Garden has also jumped on the chicken bandwagon: it has seven hens of its own. Members of the garden take turns caring for the chickens and share the eggs that they produce.

“A few garden members were skeptical at first,” said Greg Anderson, president of the garden. “But now we get a lot more visitors. People will come in just to see the chickens. Kids love them.”

And the chicken craze isn’t limited to Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Rebecca Lax, who lives on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, has raised three chicken broods and said that each bunch became a part of the family.

“They think of you as their parent,” said Lax. “Every time I sat down in the garden, one would jump into my lap.”

Lax said that her entire family was charmed by the chickens, and maintained that they never bothered the neighbors — until one escaped the backyard and hid in a neighbor’s tree.

“We only pissed off that one neighbor,” she said. “Everyone else was totally into it.”

Lots of Brooklynites are “into it” these days, partially thanks to Leff, who started a company that helps urbanites set up their own chicken coops. Victory Chicken, which only started in May, has helped customers in neighborhoods across the borough, including Red Hook, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, and Park Slope.

“It gives the whole backyard a nice pastoral feel,” said Mark Ginsberg, one of Leff’s clients.

His girlfriend has become emotionally attached to the chickens, and named each after a chicken preparation (like General Tso and McNugget) — even though she says she could never eat them. Lax, too, said she would be unable to cook her chickens because they’ve become too much like pets.

“I would never eat my chickens,” she said. “I get too emotionally involved.”

But Leff said that he would probably eat his hens after they stopped laying eggs, and wouldn’t be too upset about it because he would know that they had lived good chicken lives.

“I’m sure I’ll feel sad when I eat them,” said Leff. “But I’ll also feel hungry and then I’ll feel full.”

For information, contact Leff at or call (347) 803-0777.

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Reader Feedback

teegee from sunset park says:
in the early 1990's i had free range chickens, a rooster, free range rabbits and a dwarf nubian goat in my back yard. my neighbors were really good about it.

at one point i added a flock of quail. i kept them caged. but read that quail, with the right size flock, will actually stay together and not need being caged. i let them loose and in 3 minutes they were all gone - except for the one that my dalmatian (a soft-mouth retriever) brought back to me undamaged. thru the day, neighbors appeared at my door, some with towels, holding stray quails that they had found in their

the rabbits had to go when i found my brick path collapsing as they tunneled under. also they ate the roots of my border bushes killing them all in less than a week...

the goat was the best (and most illegal - although i tried to find legal loopholes). super intelligent, easily trained, fun to run & jump & race with in the yard. he could run towards the first floor window, jump and put all four hooves on the 3" window sill and look at me with a defiant stare. and yet for all his skill, sometimes he would trip over his own feet while walking slowly. he would untie my shoes for me when i came home, but would sometimes sneak behind me and untie my carpenters apron while i was working. we would play a head butt game where i would aim my clenched fist at him and he would lower his head, scratch at the ground and run at me and butt my fist.

but the favorite trick was having him stand on his hind legs and dance the cha-cha with me. i never admitted to my family or friends that this was not a "taught" trick - this was very typical goat mating
June 23, 2011, 8:08 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Why is the City not like the country? Why can't we have the country in the city?

Why is it cool to have chickens in the yard, but not cool to have a slaughterhouse next to the apartment I moved into last week without noticing that 100 year old slaughter house?

Why can't I have it both ways? Why? Why?
June 23, 2011, 8:40 am
just says:
any suggestions on what I can do about my neighbors r smelly dog? The scent is seeping into my apartment.....It is sickening... I hate it.
June 23, 2011, 12:41 pm
Melissa from Iowa says:
We love our backyard chickens!

You have no idea how much enjoyment you can get from a group of chickens until you try it!
June 24, 2011, 12:30 pm
john from marine park says:
i ate chicken tonight and i feel good..maybe yours is next yuppie scum
Aug. 2, 2011, 7:11 pm
kathy from maryland says:
I live out near a rural town in Maryland. In July there was a column in the local paper entitled "Boonsboro has the right idea on chickens":

chicken column

but a couple of months later.... "Boonsboro says no to chickens"

town says no
Nov. 5, 2011, 11:26 am
kathy from maryland says:
Here are the URLs. I had tried to include them in the above post but they did not appear.

(Or just search on: boonsboro chickens )
Nov. 5, 2011, 11:28 am
Annie Rose from NYU says:
Hello! We are writing a blog about urban farming in our journalism writing class at NYU - any chance you would be willing to speak to us about the good old days when you had a nubian goat in your backyard? Let us know and respond in the reader feedback! Thanks
Jan. 25, 2012, 12:41 am

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