Nina In New York: The Chickens Have Come Home To Roost
A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
By now, many of you may have read or heard about the story which appeared in this past Saturday’s New York Times, about a mother in Forest Hills who is currently battling with her neighborhood association over the chickens she keeps in her yard. She bought the chickens to collect their eggs, in an effort to provide her young daughter with a diet entirely free of hormones. Turns out they’re verboten in her area, along with other common problematic home installations like slaughter houses, distilleries, foundries of all kinds, hospitals, and crematoriums. You know, all the usual suspects. If I had a nickel for every illegal neighborhood foundry . . .
The chicken owner says the rules are antiquated and don’t account for modern day chicken-owning needs. The association president says rules are rules are rules are rules. Rules rule!
Did this not sweep the nation? I could have sworn it was all anyone was buzzing about this weekend. Perhaps it’s because in my world, the story hits close to home on several levels.
First, quite literally, I live near to this woman. So, I guess now I know I can’t legally house chickens on my property. I’d
always never wondered about that, but it’s good to have closure in life, regardless the issue. No chickens. No asylums. No smelting, or whatever. Color me compliant.
Second, I too am concerned with the proper care and feeding of children. I too worry about things like hormones, chemicals and antibiotics in our food. I’ve read terrifying article after terrifying article: we’re eating poison, we’ll all be antibiotic resistant and superbugs will one day fell whole generations of progeny. Our daughters are developing and getting their periods years younger than they should be. It’s enough to make you want to move out to the middle of nowhere and become a homesteader. Only, I won’t. Most of us don’t. I feel trapped between wanting to do something to ensure my daughter eats foods that won’t harm her and wanting to live my life like a normal city-dwelling human who is unencumbered by extra work like growing crops and feeding farm animals. I personally do not think I can do any more than what I currently do to maintain the lives of the members of my household without having to give up something important, like sleep. Sure, there are a lot of half steps in between doing nothing and building a henhouse in Queens: farmers markets, CSA subscriptions, a third thing. I freely admit that I am generally too overwhelmed and exhausted to live so ideally. The best I can do right now is inform myself to the point of anxiety-induced insomnia, pay through the nose for foods with labels I think classify them as better for you, and hope it’s enough, occasionally reminding myself that I grew up on low fat Dunkaroos and didn’t hear the word “organic” until I was in college. Not to brag or anything, but I seem to be faring mostly OK. Four limbs, all my organs, full head of hair, my nails grow super fast, no seasonal allergies, and I think I’m immune to mononucleosis. So far, so good.
Listen, despite the fact that her intensity level makes me all kinds of irritable and fatigued, this woman’s commitment to feeding her family “clean” food is admirable. Every mom tries in her own way to feed her children right. It’s all about where you draw the line. Some mothers won’t permit their babies to eat things that aren’t organic. Some eschew all unhealthy foods, even if they’re made from good ingredients. Some ban gluten and sugar and dairy and some just focus on moderation. Sometimes a kid would rather starve than eat anything other than french fries, so french fries it is. It’s all insane, and it’s all good. We’re just trying our hardest. I will say that this particular choice makes little sense to me, as all commercial egg-laying hens are mandated hormone free. But I’m sure her eggs are way tastier than those you can find in the store, and perhaps they possess other nutritional benefits. At the very least, she knows her eggs come from happy, healthy hens who enjoy a true free range lifestyle. That’s terrific.
And she shares with her neighbors! Hey. I’m a neighbor. How can I get in on some yard-fresh eggs? I’ll trade you some of my fresh milk from the dairy cow I keep in my garage!
No. Wait. I mean . . . I . . . there’s no dairy cow here. Did I say dairy cow? I meant laundry detergent. That’s all that’s in my garage.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!