Evicted Chickens Find Summer Home at LES Community Garden

By Serena Solomon on May 29, 2013 6:40am 

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 A trio of chickens are being housed at the M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden for the summer.
Chickens at M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden
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LOWER EAST SIDE — New York City's real estate market is so tight that even chickens are being squeezed out.

A trio of chickens, evicted from their Downtown rooftop, found a home for the summer at the M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden on the Lower East Side.

Vanilla, Sadie and Flufferbutt recently moved into a previously empty coop at the garden, located behind the BRC Senior Services Center at Delancey and Chrystie streets. They will remain there until November, when they will hopefully be reunited with their owner, Julian Rubinfien, 12, who raised the 8-month-old birds from chicks on the co-op rooftop where his family lives near City Hall, said Mandy Lehrer, who leads the garden's chicken committee.

The family had received permission from the building's board to own chickens, but the board retracted the approval after realizing what was involved in housing them, according to a Tribeca Trib article in April.

"We met with Julian and his mom and figured out a deal where if the building allows it, he can take the chickens back in November," Lehrer said.

If not, the garden plans to donate the birds to a local community-supported agriculture program, or CSA, where the chickens would become part of an egg-share farm upstate.

In the meantime, Lehrer, 38, a volunteer gardener, said she's been enjoying looking after the birds. 

"I was pleasantly surprised how fun it is to care for them," Lehrer said. "I just like being around them."

Volunteers at the garden are scheduled to care for the chickens each day in a routine that involves giving them water and feeding them a diet of pressed corn, kale, peppers and even peaches. Julian will take over the duties on Sundays.

Since arriving at M'Finda on Saturday, Vanilla, Sadie and Flufferbutt have averaged about four eggs a day, according to Lehrer.

"Whoever takes care of them that day gets to keep the eggs," she said.

This is the third year the garden has housed chickens, an effort that initially started when someone threw two roosters over the fence and the community "took a liking to them" and built a chicken coop, said Edward "Bud" Shalala, another M'Finda volunteer.

"The adults like them and so do the kids," Shalala said. "We get streams of people in April and May asking, ‘When are you getting the chickens?'"

Last year, Shalala also oversaw a "ladybug drop" in which volunteers repopulated the garden with 140,000 bugs.

"We are becoming more than just plants," he said. "We are becoming an ecology center."

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