• Urban Quack: The Story Behind Jersey City Heights’ Farm

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    If you’ve ever walked down Ogden in Jersey City and turned right on Ferry towards LoFi and Choc-O-Pain, chances are you’ve passed a backyard with quite the peculiar sight — chickens. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, there are actually chickens and ducks back there. And if you’re nosy like us, you’ve probably wondered why. Well, our team got to the bottom of it, and we’re sharing the story with you — as we have an exclusive interview with Shirley Parcon, the owner of Urban Quack, a farm in Jersey City Heights. She graciously allowed us into her backyard for this interview.

    urban quack farm

    By day, Shirley Parcon is a skilled wine seller who sells wine to restaurants and Hoboken wine stores like Cork and Cheese + Wine, but when she comes home, she runs Urban Quack as her hobby and passion project {and has become known as “Chicken Shirley” or the “Chicken Lady” of the Heights.

    How Urban Quack Came to Be

    Growing up in the Midwest, Shirley Parcon always had a love for animals. She moved to the east coast and was a Hoboken resident for years, always feeling a longing to get reacquainted with animals in a bigger way. About nine years ago, she and her family — her two children and husband Jerry, a local real estate agent in Hoboken — moved up to Jersey City Heights on Ogden Street to what she calls her “dream home.”

    urban quack home jersey city

    ^ The front of Shirley’s home {Urban Quack is in the back}

    “I just knew it was the house. We got so lucky.” It was 2010. Since that time, she’s happily lived in Jersey City with her family.

    But about two years into living in JC Heights, Shirley had an idea, stemming from a conversation she had with her children. “I wanted to have them discover and answer the question, ‘What comes first, the chicken or the egg?'” she remembers. The result is still a mystery, but it did lead to the family living in one of the biggest cities in New Jersey with 21 animals happily strutting around their backyard.

    “I wanted to have them discover and answer the question, ‘What comes first, the chicken or the egg?'” she remembers.

    “My husband was not thrilled at first,” she recalls. “He wanted me to take all the chicks back. But we convinced him.”

    urban quack farm jersey city

    On Urban Quack’s Sustainability

    For urban farm skeptics, Shirley has some pretty hard-to-argue answers and composting facts. Her chickens eat food scraps that are dropped off by local restaurants and the family’s compost scraps {that are healthy for the chickens to eat}, making Urban Quack completely sustainable and the ultimate composting situation. “They eat anything from rice to broccoli to seeds,” noting that usually the family’s leftover food goes to the chickens. {And no, they don’t eat the chickens for those concerned!}

    urban quack chickens

    “We could live off the land if we wanted,” she says. The chickens {and ducks!} lay eggs daily. Having all females, she says, means that they can lay eggs {and don’t need a rooster to mate with — roosters just fertilize the eggs which isn’t necessary for eating}. The farm consists of all female chickens. #GRLPWR

    The Animals

    Most who pass by just notice the chickens, but if you look closely, you’ll see Urban Quack is aptly named as it houses several ducks {and rabbits, too!}. In total, having 21 animals — Shirley owns three dogs {Bear, Brooklyn, and Suzy Q}, two cats, several rescue rabbits including one named Pepper. The newest addition to the Urban Quack family is a chicken named Fluffy Chicken, but she’s called Butterball or BB for short.

    urban quack shirley

    ^Shirley and her fave bunny ‘Pepper,’ a sweet little guy that she sometimes brings to local schools to learn about farm animals.

    “There’s actually a pecking order,” she notes, explaining that in the chicken coop she keeps, the strongest chickens sleep on the top, and from there it goes down in strength. “BB is currently at the bottom because she’s new, but she’ll get there.”

    urban quack behind house

     

    The Schedule

    urban quack egg shed

    Every morning, Shirley gets up and out the door by 7:30AM to let her dogs out — and of course, the chickens out. Typically, the chickens lay their eggs in the morning, and they get let out to eat and have some water. Rabbits are fed next, and then she double checks that all her two- and four-legged friends have water before it’s time to head to work around 11:00AM.

    urban quack rabbits

    “My job [as a wine seller] is flexible, so it allows me to have this lifestyle. My farm friends from back home can’t believe that I have a farm.”

    Read More: A Guide to Farmers Markets in Hoboken + Jersey City

    Once she gets home later in the day, she’ll bring her dogs out and let the chickens head back into their own quarters. “The chickens naturally make their way back into their house to go to sleep once the sun goes down, and then I close and lock the coop.” And then it’s time to do it all over again the next day,

    The Egg Sitch

    When Shirley first starting keeping chickens, she didn’t know what to expect.

    “When we first came here, [our] neighbors weren’t used to it,” she says. “We had to get a license with the city. We were #3 for chicken licensing in Jersey City.” Pioneers! {And yes, that means there are two other chicken farms somewhere in JC. We’re going to find them.}

    But now neighbors embrace it. And even purchase eggs.

    urban quack eggs

    “We’ve become a local source for fresh eggs with friends and neighbors,” she explained. “They leave money under the door and we set out eggs for them to grab.” She emphasized that most times the eggs are already allocated to various friends and neighbors for purchase. But if interested, definitely get in touch with her to reserve your own eggs by email shirlwinegirl@gmail.com or via Instagram @urbanquack_jc. From what Shirley has shared, supplies are already spoken for but you never know!

    urban quack produce

    ^Above, duck eggs and tomatoes from the garden

    On top of running her farm, Shirley offers consultations for those interested in getting chickens for themselves {ahem, fresh eggs daily} or making compost.

    “You can have sustainable food — it’s not hard. You don’t have to have a big space to have a little garden. You can have just a little flower box. You just have to start,” she smiles.

    She also said that the farm has become a haven for unwanted animals — sometimes she has had people drop off animals they aren’t able to take care of.

    Urban Quack Plans for Future

     Next up, Shirley is looking to introduce a pig to her small farm family. She currently brings her bunny, Pepper, to local schools to share about farm animals but wants to expand more on education for urban children about farm animals. “I want to start a therapy program — bringing chickens and rabbits to a nursing home.”

    If interested in seeing this farm for yourself, Shirley tell us that on May 18, 2019, Ferry Street in the Heights is having a block party and the neighborhood association is closing off the street. There will be live music and because Urban Quack is on the street, you’ll be able to peep {pun intended} the farm. It’s quite a sight to see, and definitely worth the trek.

    Thank you for having us into your amazing backyard space, Shirley!


    Have you seen or passed by Urban Quack?

    Let us know in the comments!


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