Keeping Chickens by Ashley English

Keeping Chickens is the companion book to the wonderful Canning and Preserving which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, it’s also written by the prolific Ashley English. These are first of what I hope is a long series of DIY books from Sterling Publishing.

I believe in the Spring we have Keeping Bees and Home Dairy to look forward to!
This post is going to be like a Proustian flashback only instead of Madeline it’s chickens. After looking through Keeping Chickens it got me thinking about my relationship with chickens. Given that I live on the 14th floor of a huge high-rise complex the idea of me ever owning chickens seems remote. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t like them, or the life in the city that would allow me to have them. It’s a testament to Ms. English’s book that after looking through it I had chicken longing.

When I first moved to NYC many, many years ago I first lived with my friend Elisabeth in her small, cockroach and mouse infested, seriously slopped floor one bedroom on Monroe street in a remote part of Chinatown.

My second temporary home was at 148 Forsyth street on the Lower East Side, sleeping on a futon on the floor of my friend Ansell’s railroad apartment. It was a much bigger apartment than Elisabeth’s, but shared the angled floor. I loved living at Ansell’s place, but there were certain things about it that were a tad unnerving. The rats running in the ceiling above the bed, I lived in fear that one day the plaster would give and I’d wake in a cloud of dust and a bed alive with scurrying rats. Then there was the drugs deals in the stairwell, the needles in the snow banks outside the door and the general feeling of danger that clung to the streets like a wet noodle.
Despite all this we had a lot of fun. Ah youth. The thing that most sticks in my mind about Ansell’s place his street in those days was how no matter what time of day or night you would often seen a family of chickens walk up the street with a matter of fact casualness that made it seem perfectly normal that someone amongst all this urban decay was keeping chickens. urban chickens without a curfew, Ma, Pa and the kids walking up the street oblivious to the drug dealer, crack heads, muggers and homeless people. One minute they were there and the next they had disappeared off into the ruins of an abandoned ruined tenement. Depending on the amount of beer drunk and pot smoked this was often either uproariously funny or surreal and vaguely disturbing.

Now this same boulevard park is home to a lush community garden called theM’FindaKalunga Garden.

On Thursday this is where members of the Stanton Street CSA come to pickup their goodies.

A while back, I think it was early Spring, I was walking to Union Square and passed by the M’Finda and heard clucking. I stopped and looked around and there were several chickens walking abround the garden. I was so delighted I immediately called Neil so he could here them. Well, him, him who shall not be named because Roosters are, I believe, technically, illegal to own in NYC.

This is Lauren who seems to be the chicken point person at M’Finda. She’s great and let me come in and do a chicken photo shoot. She also gave me a tour of their very fancy digs that one of the other gardeners built.

Hen’s lay 1 egg every two days. Sometimes the eggs get stuck and you need to massage them out. Hen’s lay eggs for about 2 years, then, in most cases, become chicken soup.

Such focus. It’s nice to see that the chickens have returned to the Lower East Side. Actually Chickens seem to be all over town nowadays. Just Food NYC even has a project called City Chickens run by expert chicken owners in order to provide a resource to gardeners and, well anyone, who might be interested in learning how to keep chickens.

Keeping Chickens shares the same great look and design as Canning and Preserving. It is indefatigable in its information and it includes, like Canning and Preserving, throughout the book, Portraits of Chicken Owners. Which I love. It makes it very real, accessible and for someone consider having chickens for the first time it gives you real life insights into the trials and tribulations of what it is like to keep your flock happy and healthy.

Of course my favorite part are the recipes, I can’t wait until the fall to make the Pumpkin Crème Brûlée.

It’s nice to know that where ever you live you too can keep chickens and that Ashley English has written the perfect primer to get you on your way!

These are just some pictures from the Stanton Street CSA pick up.
Oh look, eggs!

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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1 Response to Keeping Chickens by Ashley English

  1. Pingback: Chips: Reinventing a Favorite Food | Urbanfoodguy

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