Noah Leff keeps chickens as pets and thinks their antics are hilarious when they start to follow you around. Now with Victory Chicken, a new Crown Heights startup, Leff aims to help urbanites raise their own hens–if not for humor, then for eggs.
Victory Chicken is a local “one stop shop,” says Leff, for those who aspire to become backyard chickens farmers. Their “Rosie” package at $785 provides first time owners with three hens, a Brooklyn handmade coop with 21-square feet of running space, a two-month supply of feed, and all the practical information needed to raise your first chickens.
By Leff’s calculations, the birds pay for themselves with their egg yield over time: about 60 to 70 dozen eggs a year. At farmer’s markets, a dozen eggs raised in the same free-range manner cost $3 or $4 a dozen.
Still, raising chickens is just a hobby for Leff. By day he’s a non-profit financial consultant. He had his first encounter with chicken farming at the Walt L. Shamel Community Garden in Crown Heights five years ago and has been volunteering at the garden’s coops ever since. Sold on the joys (and relative ease) of procuring fresh eggs from healthy chickens, three weeks ago he launched Victory Chicken to help other city dwellers experience backyard chicken rearing.
He decided the difficulty in acquiring the expertise to build a coop, obtain and care for a flock was “the barrier to entry. … I realized that if there was something out there that could easily help people get things started,” enthused Leff, “ more people would want to do this.” In just an hour and a half, Victory Chicken will set up a functioning coop in your garden, leaving you with three 12 to 16 week old hens that will begin laying in about two weeks.
Once the coop is established, the actual maintenance of the birds is easy. Every three days, you’ll need to clean out the cage, refill their water tanks, and once or twice a month, and add more hay to the coop. You can also get a subscription service for $265 a year with two coop cleanings, health checks, and feed and hay delivery. (Perfect for helping inexperienced chicken owners learn how to take care of their new pets during the first year, says Leff.)
A proponent of humanely treated livestock, Leff describes backyard coops as chickens raised “the old-fashioned way,” where the birds can “do the things they want to do.” Au natural chicken behavior also enhances the taste of the egg yolk, he says, explaining that when the backyard chicken is allowed space to do chicken things like forage and eat worms, their eggs trump those from animals raised in cramped commercial hatcheries.
Working with small family farms from upstate New York and New Jersey, Victory Chicken provides hens breed specifically for small flocks and for egg laying. Victory’s Rhode island reds, barred rocks, araucana, buff orpingtons and Easter eggers are also known for “integrating well with people” says Leff. Victory’s hens are “first and foremost pets” he says, “secondly layers,” and “fairly mellow and quiet.”
Leff recounts that a common experience among first-time owners of chickens is to find out they like the chickens as much as the eggs. Leff says he personally finds it therapeutic to hang out with his flock and contemplate a slower pace of life: “Especially in a city like New York, you’re dealing with everything modern, fast and urban, it’s actually soothing to hang out with your chickens and watch them.”
Find Victory Chicken on Facebook right here.