Feral Chickens in the Bronx

December 10, 2012

There’s a parking lot in the Bronx that has an old aspen tree behind a chain link fence. In the tree live dozens of wild chickens. Or maybe they aren’t exactly wild. They’re whatever an animal is that runs loose when it wants, but through a landscape of concrete and asphalt and old tires and broken glass. Feral? I don’t know what to call them. But head over there with a bag of dry rice and you’ve got yourself something strange to do.

The chickens roost up in the old tree not because they have a sense of urban poetry, or sense of urban anything: it’s just good old-fashioned staying alive. “They gotta protect themselves from raccoons and rats,” says Eddie Guerrero, who works at the lot. Raccoons eat chicken? “Oh,” he widens his eyes, “a raccoon will tear a chicken up.”

Eddie turned out to be one of the best people I’ve met on this gig. He watched quietly, pushing a broom, until he sensed that more info about the chickens was welcome—and then he delivered a succinct, informed, and unexpectedly soulful account of how they live. Free, but among us. Listen for yourself: