Posted by Mark Foggin
A few weeks ago, on a bike tour of community gardens that are also raising chickens, the tour guide was asked where the gardeners managed to get chicken feed for their fowl, and riders heard this tantalizing scrap: that many of them get it from New York City’s only animal feed store—in the Bronx.
The Bronx? Surely he was joking.
Nope. Owen Taylor, coordinator of Just Food’s City Chicken project, was referring to Bronx Animal Feeds on Park Avenue and East 162nd Street in the Melrose neighborhood. And, yes, it appears to be one of only two bulk feed stores in New York City (CG Country Seed in Staten Island is the other). Of late, Bronx Animal Feeds has become much more of a place for pet owners to provision dogs and cats than for coop owners (nota bene, all you city-slickers, that’s coop owners and not co-op owners) to buy cracked corn for their Rhode Island Reds.
Business is just fine, says owner Jack Horowitz. His grandfather started the shop about 75 years ago to supply live poultry markets in a time before refrigeration and pre-butchered meats. But in the post-war era, live poultry markets became the exception instead of the rule in New York City. And those that remained, Horowitz said, got their feed from the farms that supplied their livestock.
“We kept carrying chicken feed because it was in our blood, but we were down to very little. A couple of poultry markets would come by just to fill in.”
But recently, Horowitz says, he’s seen a significant change. “Three years ago, we did about a thousand pounds a month,” he told me one recent Saturday afternoon while walking among shelves piled with 50-pound bags of feed. “Now we’re up to two or three tons a month.” What accounts for the change? City chickens, he says. “It’s all from the laying hen movement.”