My Neighbor’s Hens

I am thankful for my neighbor’s hens.  We’ve rented our house since last August and I was so pleased to learn that my neighbor’s across the street, Josh and Laura, have several hens: Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red and a couple of Aracana (although I am not sure if they are pure bred).  Josh’s “girls” are sometimes allowed to roam the front yard of their adjacent neighbor’s house.  I often know this only because Cassius (my German Shepherd dog) makes it a point to announce it.  I would love to have my own hens one day.  

Once upon a time while living in Bushwick, Brooklyn (NYC), I cared for a chicken. Imagine an urban, almost industrial neighborhood characterized by cement sidewalks, garbage and noise pollution instead of trees and flowers. We lived on the ground floor of a three unit apartment house and paid little extra for exclusive access to the back yard.  It was surrounded by cinderblock walls with rolled razor wire at the top.  One dark and stormy night, an odd looking bird landed in our back yard.  I didn’t know it that night, but we found it walking around the next day and looking as confused as we felt.  Why was a live chicken roaming our neighborhood anyway?

This lucky chicken managed to locate the two biggest suckers in the neighborhood, and one was a vegetarian.  I called my mom who then shipped some chicken feed (she had hens at the time) so we could keep it until we figured out what to do next. We were scheduled to move soon but I named it Chuck anyway.  It was quite small, and the color of a dove but it was nothing else but chicken.  It (never figured out it’s gender) was not very smart but I won’t go into the multiple reasons why that conclusion was made.

About a month later we moved to another apartment in Greenpoint with no yard access. I found it safe passage to a micro-greens farm in Montgomery, in upstate New York.  I loaded Chuck into a cardboard box punched with holes, got on the subway and handed him over to Windfall Farms one Saturday at the Union Square Greenmarket.  They said he would live out a life in comfortable retirement.  Later that year I was told by the farmer that Chuck had fled the farm and took another chicken with him.  It sounded just like the movie Chicken Run. That chicken had an adventurous life!

Unfortunately, I now live without the benefit of my own hens.  I am envious of those who stay in one place long enough to keep an urban coop like my neighbors and a growing number of urban chicken-coop keepers.  Last week I came home to find a dozen eggs sitting in a brown paper bag on my front porch.  They were different sizes and colors. I knew it was a gift from the hens and thanked Josh the next day.  “A gift as good as gold!” I said to Josh.  He wanted to barter for pickles which I will do once the season is in full swing. 

I have all but used up the eggs.  I have one little egg in my fridge.  I made deviled eggs with a half dozen, and whipped up one egg white for buttermilk pineapple sherbet.  The last four we ate for breakfast baked over root vegetable and mushroom hash.  I am not going to expect eggs from my neighbor on a regular basis, but Josh did say that he could only eat four per day (he’s a big guy) so I am hopeful for more soon.  In fact I just dropped off a paper bag filled with two empty egg cartons and a jar of pickles.

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