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Urban Farmers Take to Sunnyside Gardens

Jennifer Hiser and Peter Montalbano

June 17, 2012 By Christian Murray

Jennifer Hiser’s college architecture project was a far cry from designing skyscrapers.

The Sunnyside Gardens resident, intrigued by the concept of urban farming, decided she would design and build a chicken coop instead.  Shortly after completing her project, she decided to test it out.

Hiser has three hens, which she reared from the time they were just a day old. She named them Nugget (as in McNugget); Schmaltz (as in the type of chicken fat used by Ashkenazi Jews); and Poulet.

“It took six months and a lot of work before they started laying eggs,” Hiser said. Now, “each hen lays an egg on a daily basis.”  Furthermore, they are more self sufficient and easier to maintain.

The three of them enjoy the good life. They have a two story chicken coup, where there is a downstairs compartment to shelter them from the elements and an upstairs to get fresh air.

Many days they roam free around the 44th Street property, which is well cordoned off.

Hiser’s biggest fear is that the chickens will be savaged by raccoons or hawks. She said she locks the coup at night to ensure the raccoons can’t get in. She said that dogs have not posed much of a problem since everyone has them on a leash.

Hiser and her boyfriend, Peter Montalbano, also have a vegetable garden that is cordoned off from the chickens where tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, beans and lavender are grown. There is also a compost heap as well.

There have been no complaints about Hiser keeping the chickens. In fact, “some parents ask me to open the coop for their kids,” she said. “Many young children have never seen live chickens before.”

Meanwhile, Montalbano said: “I have some friends who think it is pretty cool, especially when I tell them it’s legal.”

Hens are perfectly legal in New York City; roosters, on the other hand: are a not.

For Hiser’s blog on her chickens click here.

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