Chicken Keeping Takes Hold in Ditmas Park

In Brooklyn, raising chickens, and finding them roaming the streets, is more common than one might think.


"Anyone lose a chicken?"

That's what Ditmas Park resident Jennifer Wilenta recently asked the Flatbush Family Network (FFN) email group, a question that doesn't typically cross the list-serv's forums. 

"It is still kind of novel to wrap your head around," Wilenta told Patch. She was tipped off by a friend that a hen was wandering around a nearby church yard, and since she already owned one feathered friend, she decided to add the bird to her coop. 

"She wasn't in a safe place," she said. "She definitely wasn't meant to be there."

The bird, dubbed "Patchwork Freebird" by Wilenta's young daughter Zoe, has settled in nicely, joining her other bird Penelope and five other chickens that were recently added. "Right now we're pretty maxed out," she said of the coop's occupancy.

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And while those who need to get a chicken off of their hands can no longer turn to Wilenta, she's not the only chicken keeper in the neighborhood.

"I know there are two others on Marlborough [Road] who have coops," she said. "There are at least six [households] in Ditmas Park with chicken coops."

Homes that want to be self-sustaining and have the room for it have begun to take on what many would consider a more rural mindset. "I don't think it's a new thing," she said. "You're seeing a resurgence in homesteading. There are tons of ways to do it, we just tried to use dead space in our backyard." 

"I like that my kids see where things come from, that we don't just go to the store to get eggs."

But with more chickens comes the possibility of more strays.

"There's been a lot of roaming chickens," she said with a laugh. "There was another chick found on the street, but she turned out to be my neighbor's." 

Finding a stray chicken in Brooklyn is more common than one might think, according to Maggie O’Neill, Director of Development for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. "I would guess on average, ten chickens a month come in to Animal Care and Control [ACC] shelters," she said. 

O'Neill, who previously worked at ACC, said chickens often came to shelters as "strays," which meant they were found on the street.

"There are animals that escape from various slaughter houses and butchers in the City and even in the boroughs," she said. "Or it might be a simple case that the owner doesn't understand what [a chicken] needs or how to take care of them. Chickens and birds have a whole different host of needs than cats or dogs."

"A lot of really well-intentioned people wouldn't necessarily know what they're getting into," she continued. "It's great to hear that this woman who took this chicken in has a coop and knows how to take care of them."

Wilenta certainly is well situated to give Patchwork Freebird a good home, and if her daughter and young son Tristan have it their way, it's on Marlborough Road that Patchwork Freebird will stay.

"Zoe is like the chicken whisperer," Wilenta said of her daughter's affinity for the birds. "They're pets to us." 

Caitlin Nolan August 02, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Good question, Pearl. Wilenta said that she's seen raccoons and stray cats in the backyard every so often, but her coop is secure and they've never been able to get in.
Dios Thunders August 03, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I grewup in a italian area the had lots of chickens and afew ducks..they usedto sell them as babies for easter. I sont knowwhat most peopledid withthem ,maybe gave them to chicken houses that stil exist there but alot kept them as pets or set up hen houses and hope to get eggs Im sure a few get ate I had a neighbor wwho laways had chickens and Id go and play with them and feed them bread and peanuts. Chickens are smart and nice pets they knew I had the stuf and came right over I loved them one got loose and got hit by a car another time one got stolen the owner saw the man running away with it , said hes probaly gonna eat my chicken! I saw a possum trying toget in a basement window on east 17th and dorchester Where it came From? Prosect park? it was weird looking a bunch of people crowded staying its a rat !no! its a white racoon, but I know it was apossum, ugly hissing things scary looking teeth this one was huge!
Sara August 03, 2012 at 02:33 PM
This is so interesting. I think it's great that Wilenta is doing this...
jennifer August 04, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Thanks Sara! It is really a labor of love for us. We are definitely the chicken keeping newbies of the neighborhood, but I am loving every minute, as are my chicken whispering children.
Nicole December 26, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Haha Jennifer that's hysterical. I didn't know it made patch!


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