A Friendly Neighborhood Chicken Farm in Jersey City

Shirley Parcon founded Urban Quack in her backyard as a way to teach her children about farming and sustainability. The free-range eggs are sold locally.

urban quack

Shirley Parcon feeds the chickens on her Jersey City farm a diet of standard feed and scraps from local restaurants. Photo by Christopher Lane

Most people who move to Jersey City are drawn by its urban amenities. Shirley Parcon and her family moved to Jersey City and started a farm.

Their small backyard spread, dubbed Urban Quack, is, at the moment, home to 19 chickens and seven ducks—just below the maximum number allowed in Jersey City. The family’s animal census also includes three rabbits, three dogs, three cats, a beehive and a fish called Sean O. Fishery. Twelve of the animals are rescues.

Parcon started Urban Quack in 2012 as a way to teach her two young children about farming and sustainability. It began when she and her husband decided to incubate a dozen eggs; within a few weeks, her family watched as three of them hatched. 

As a child in southern Illinois, Parcon grew up among farming neighbors. She moved to New Jersey in the late 1990s; the family bought their home in the Heights neighborhood of Jersey City in 2010. The backyard space is just 750 square feet, but that’s no impediment.

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“You don’t need to have big farmland,” says Parcon, 54. “You don’t have to grow up in the country to get a feel for nature. It’s right here in the city. People come by and want to volunteer to collect the eggs or clean the coop. These are things that I did as a kid.”

Urban Quack sells its 100 percent free-range chicken eggs to neighbors and on urbanquackjc.org (for local pickup) for $6 a dozen. Duck eggs go for $8 a dozen. 

In addition to standard feed, Parcon—who holds just the third license to raise chickens in the city—nourishes her birds with food scraps from local restaurants. In the winter, she puts a heater in the coop (built by Jersey City artist and carpenter Christopher Sixsmith) if temperatures drop below freezing. But for the most part, chickens know to sleep close together to keep warm. 

Urban Quack welcomes visitors from 8 am–4 pm on weekends and after 4 pm weekdays. “It’s a neighborhood thing,” says Parcon. “The chickens don’t make enough eggs to sell commercially, but we still have too many eggs. I like that it’s just neighbors and friends. If they want them, I have them.”

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