The teenage girl and the chicken pecking at the sidewalk near Grand Army Plaza on Monday afternoon were two different species united by a common problem — they were both temporarily homeless.
Sixteen-year-old Juliana Clark and her neighbors haven’t been able to return to their Park Slope apartment building since a devastating fire March 4, but that inconvenience didn’t stop them from rushing to the aid of another creature in need of shelter this week.
Now Clark and her displaced neighbors — who won't be able to return to their apartments at 88 Prospect Park West for at least three months, they said — are hoping to reunite the chicken with its owner so it can go back home.
"It has been so time-consuming and stressful to be without a house," said Kristin Fields, another resident of 88 Prospect Park West who was displaced by the fire but has found time to help the homeless hen. "In a way, trying to find a home for this chicken took us away from that for a little while."
She added, "It was almost like a welcome break. It was like: ‘We’re doing the best we can for ourselves at this point, let's help someone else.' It just happened to be a chicken in Grand Army Plaza."
Clark was on her way home from school Monday afternoon when she spotted the hungry-looking hen strutting dangerously close to Flatbush Avenue. Worried the animal could get hit by a car and mindful of the ferocious blizzard forecasters were predicting that night, Clark scooped up the bird.
"I thought it was super cute and was concerned it would run into the road, which is why I decided to rescue it," said Clark, an animal lover who hopes to one day become a veterinarian.
Clark, who once spent a couple of weeks on an upstate farm, wrapped the chicken in her coat to avoid exposing herself to potential avian illnesses, and took the bird to the Prospect Park Zoo, which declined her request to take in the animal.
So Clark continued on to her temporary home, a neighbor's apartment on Prospect Park West where she's been staying with her mom, dog and cat since the fire. The chicken was calm during the 20-minute trek, even nodding off while tucked safely under Clark's arm.
Clark's mom called Fields because Fields had once worked at the Queens County Farm and Clark's mom thought she would know what to do with a lost chicken.
Fields got busy trying to find out who the chicken's owner was. She called anyone she could think of who might know the bird's origin, including the Prospect Park Alliance, local community gardens, and the NYPD's 78th Precinct (which has rescued lost pets in the past).
She even contacted a Brooklyn Meetup group for chicken-keeping aficionados that has more than 900 members.
No one knew where the chicken was from and no one offered to shelter it. The apartment where Clark and her mom are staying was too crowded for another guest, so they stashed the chicken in the lobby of 88 Prospect Park West for the night after feeding it popcorn and cornmeal, Clark said.
On Tuesday, Fields commandeered her husband's account with the neighborhood online bulletin board NextDoor and posted a note about the chicken. The query prompted a flurry of responses. A member of the Warren Street community garden sent a garden member during Tuesday's snowstorm to count the garden's chickens. They were all present and accounted for, the gardener told Fields.
Another respondent offered her backyard coop, and still another said she had friends who ran an animal sanctuary in the Hudson Valley who might take in the chicken. One woman said she had lost her own chicken a while back, but that the hen Clark had found didn't look like her bird.
"It turns out there’s quite a community of people who keep hens in Park Slope," Fields said.
The rust-colored chicken is believed to be either a Rhode Island Red or a Red Sex Link egg-laying hen. The bird seems to be domesticated because it's comfortable with humans and other animals, Fields said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Park Slope woman with a backyard chicken coop volunteered to house the chicken temporarily. But Clark, Fields and their neighbors still hope to reunite the animal with its true owner so it can finally go home.
Meanwhile, many of the residents of 88 Prospect Park West are looking for sublets where they can stay until they're allowed to go home themselves. Many have pets, so it's been difficult to find accommodations, Fields said.
"Many of us are still looking for, ironically, housing," Fields said. "We're looking for sublets, especially places that will take pets. That’s been a challenge."