These days, you don’t have to be old MacDonald to have some farm animals.
Now, chickens are growing in popularity in the suburbs. Williams-Sonoma offers pre-fab chicken coops as well as books on raising and keeping chickens, and websites backyardchickens.com and my petchicken.com offer advice to not-quite-rural chicken owners.
Montclair has joined the trend.
Emmanuela Mujica, Essex County 4-H program assistant and Miller Street farming coordinator, has written a proposal to the Montclair Historical Society to add chickens to the lot next to the Nathaniel Crane House on Orange Road.
Their eggs, according to Mujica’s proposal, could be used for historic cookery events at the Montclair Historical Society, and sold at the Miller Street Farm stand.
It’s all perfectly legal: Montclair’s animal raising and breeding ordinance allows chickens in town, so long as the coops are a certain distance away from homes and property lines.
The language is a little confusing and, said Keith Costello, municipal senior registered environmental health specialist, the township has a code but does not actually issue licenses, though the ordinance says that they do. it will probably be revised soon, Costello said.
Montclair has its own Google group for chicken owners, Montclair Chicken, run by Kelly McDonald. McDonald said that there are 34 members in the group. while not all the members are in Montclair, there are also local chicken owners who do not participate.
There are some chicken owners, she said, who are “living in the shadows,” afraid to come out and count their eggs in public.
who keeps chickens and why?
Grace Grund, who is known as the “mother hen” of the Montclair Chicken group, said that she acquired chickens almost by accident. a friend who knew that she was interested in gardening casually said to her, Grund recalled, “do you want chickens? I have chickens and a turkey.”
Grund easily entered the world of homegrown eggs. She now owns a dozen hens.
Another Montclair chicken owner, Gary Hill, said, “I think a lot of us got started when our kids were hatching eggs in second grade in school. a bunch of families had kids at Rand. At the end of the school year, they had all these chicks and nowhere to go with them. my daughter Sophie, who was then 7, said ‘can we bring one home’?”
Rachel Egan has had chickens for two years. She grew up in Malaysia, she said, where “chickens were running around everywhere. I like the sound of the clucking, their little funny personalities.”