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Urban Chickens
Posted Mar 18,2009


In New York City, senior gardener Abu Talib oversees the Taqwa Community Farm and its 13 chickens.

In 19th-century Manhattan, hogs roamed the streets and cattle grazed in public parks. Today, chickens are the urban livestock of choice, and not just in New York. City dwellers across the U.S. are adding hens to their yards and gardens, garnering fresh eggs, fertilizer, and community ties, with localities debating and updating their ordinances accordingly.

Urban chickens fell out of favor in the last century because of industrialization and other factors. In the 1990s, though, they enjoyed a renaissance in the local-food-loving Pacific Northwest. The current recession and farm-to-table movement have taken the trend further still. “Just get a few chickens and you can feed yourself,” says AbuTalib of the Bronx’s Taqwa Community Farm. “He who controls your breadbasket controls your destiny.”

Winona Dimeo-Ediger

Photo: Ira Block

Posted by National Geographic Staff | Comments (28)
Filed Under: Culture, Wide Angle
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Pam Callaway
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Cool picture! I'm trying to get backyard chickens for my town...

Brian Zelip
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Toledo is another node on the urban chicken network.

"Bird is the word as urban chicken coops flap to Toledo

by Matt Cummings
published July 2nd 2008

Most of us who have grown up in urban areas associate the eggs we fry for our breakfasts more with refrigerators and sell-by dates than with chickens. But for urban kids and teenagers in the Glass City, Mike Szuberla, director of Toledo Botanical Garden's community outreach program, Toledo GROWs, is hoping that soon, this will change."

[read full article here: http://www.toledocitypaper.com/view_article.php?id=1864 ]

Jen (ChickenLover)
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Chickens are becoming a great hit with people everywhere.... well almost everywhere. Roswell, GA is attacking a man's right to own chickens. For more information visit the website below and post a comment. Thanks!


It's awesome that chickens are so popular now that they've made it into the pages of National Geographic Magazine!

Having fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens is so healthy, and they do taste better than storebought ones. (Psst.. chickens also make awesome pets...they're so fun to watch!).

If you're interested in raising your own flock of chickens, check out BackYardChickens.com. We're the number one chicken forum on the Internet, with over 25,000 members and all the information you need to get started (and addicted to) raising your own backyard flock. Drop by sometime and say hello!

Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

As the owner of www.BackYardChickens.com I've definitely seen the growth in the trend back toward raising chickens in a backyard (be it urban, suburban, or rural).

Our community is working on a campaign to get a small flock of chickens added to the White House. What a perfect addition to go along side of the new Presidential garden!

KT LaBadie
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I've visited that garden in the Bronx, and met Abu Talib. I was actually there when they were finishing the construction on their chicken coop. So glad to see their chicken keeping program is underway!

They built a really nice coop. I'll post some pictures of it on my website, urbanchickens.org

Owen Taylor
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Just Food is one of the groups that works with Taqwa Community Farm on their chicken project. With Heifer International we helped them finish their coop, build their run and bring in those gorgeous chickens from Awesome Farm in Tivoli, NY. For more information, see our website: www.justfood.org/cityfarms/chickens

There are other pictures of Talib and his flock, as well as other NYC flocks on our meetup group webpage:

Thanks for this National Geographic!

Laura V
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

My city allows chickens within city limits, but they count against your allowed pets -- dogs, cats, chickens, apparently! So I can't have any, since the dog and cats leave room for only 1 chicken, and I fear 1 chicken would get lonely...

Several folks in my neighborhood have chickens, though. It's pretty cool.

(There are also turkeys and deer in my neighborhood. Wild, of course. And the turkeys are MEAN!)

Chicken Ark
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I'm supporting the BackYardChickens campaign to get a flock into the White House. I don't think that any other single act could do as much to raise the profile and interest in keeping chickens at home. They've got the room, they've got the kids, they like animals - it's a perfect fit.
Love the picture too.

Chicken Coop
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

For those of you staying in the fringe or having additional space, you can build a nice chicken coop yourself. Get the chicken coop plans and resources at http://www.thechickencoopplans.com

Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I think we will be seeing more of the back to nature, gardening, raising chickens,beekeeping,etc because of the economic situation of today. I just hope it doesn't change once the economy rebounds. We all need to live a healthier way of life.

John OToole
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

There are sound financial and environmental reasons for the increase in popularity of raising chickens and building coops.
Not to mention the health reasons..people becoming understandably concerned about the source of their food..

paul godfrey
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I have been keeping chickens for the table and for eggs for many years now, I have also been producing a lot of my on organic meats such as ham and sausages and would love to share my experiences

Tanya Wright
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

That is my dad...he has always been resourceful...I remember growing up and having cabinets full of cans filled with beans and rice dry milk and other good stuff.

Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

though chickens need to have a place to exercise and get sunshine, i think a chicken range can also be made for them even in urban areas. this depends on how many chickens will be raised. i have decided to make available a chicken range at a vacant lot behind my place. nice article to read for people who enjoy raising chickens.

Chicken tractor
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Chickens are to be well protected in urban areas.

Chicken House Plans
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

It isn't anything surprising to see this sudden rise of interest in housing chickens. They are fun animals which, aside from their company lay eggs, pull out weeds and their poo is a great fertilizer. I doubt anyone who houses chickens will ever make the decision to kill one. After some time with them, it is just like killing your dog for meat, you would never do it. Being a chicken fan I hope the popularity of hens will be growing higher and higher.

Rooster Shamblin
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ please read my chicken blog. 40 years experience raising chickens.

Toni William
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Chickens are great creatures with different temperaments. Having them around even in urban cities can be nostalgic and fun.

Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Chickens are pretty adaptable. they can get along just about anywhere with a few necessities. Fresh organic eggs are are nice benefit too!

Chicken Pens Chicken Houses

chicken houses
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Chickens can live in everywhere.Even without a coop.

Chicken Houses
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

Today, the chicken play an important role for eggs & meat than the other livestock. Moreover the poultry business is hot right now.

I have been raising chickens for almost five years now and as far as I am concern I am satisfied and happy about the success I get. I have a small farm which I kept 10 chicken coop houses for my more than 20 chickens. And now, I have three chicken in my backyard here in the city. Chickens can live anywhere as long as you maintain the proper hygiene and healthy foods.

chicken coops
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I live in scotland half the year and raise chickens in my garden I love them so much they have given me eggs and soo many laughs I can’t tell, you as for keeping them warm we have 3 feet for snow right now and the chickens are shut in the house (their house) I open the door so they can get light but they don’t venture out and they are doing well they are pretty tough they are a light sussex and speckeled Humburg mix

Paul Hughes
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

In Canada, CLUCK: The Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub
@ http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=68948494632 is working to reestablish Urban Hens in our communities.

Look closely at Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is about Right to Food, not aesthetics. It is outside the scope of a municipality and they would not be successful prosecuting if you apply this defence. It is also imperative that a municipal government establish their "right" to prevent you from accessing food of your choice.

I find it shocking that the US Govt is proceeding with the prosecution of raw milk advocates by stating, "Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish."

This position is headed for a trainwreck with Article 25 of The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"...Right to Food..."


elliott maltby
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

is there any way to get rights to use this photo for an exhibition about urban farming at the new school in NYC? thanks.

Jerry - Shed Plans
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

I have been raising poultry for sometimes now and so far my chickens are pretty happy with everything I provide them. I live in the suburb, I have a pretty big back yard. Right next to my shed is the chicken coop. I started with a low number of chicken that was given to me to about 80 now. I am pretty happy with how they turn out.

Darren - Muscle
Mar 18, 2009 11AM #

we have a big back garden and are thinking of getting some chickens.

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