In the backyard of a Tudor home on a leafy street in Queens live four tenants who pay their rent in companionship, pest control, and fresh eggs.
"Our 9-year-old daughter wanted a dog for her birthday and we surprised her with chickens instead. She was at first disappointed," said Ruth Harrigan. "They're very independent. It's almost like having a cat."
Harrigan and her family keep these four hens as pets. The Harrigan brood's laying and strutting and clucking proved so popular in its Little Neck neighborhood that other humans on the block constructed their own coops for their own tenants to keep up with the Harrigans.
"Since we got chickens, all the neighbors decided they wanted chickens," Harrigan said.
The CDC put out a warning asking chicken owners not to snuggle or kiss their birds for fear of contracting salmonella.
"Chickens actually have salmonella naturally and they don't get sick from it, but humans do, and the main symptoms are diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain," Dr. Robert Glatter said. He didn't need to read the CDC report detailing the rise in salmonella infections from pet chickens, ducks and turkeys in 2015 to recommend against keeping chickens as pets.
"The main issue is that people just don't wash their hands after they handle them, especially children," Glatter said. "So I am really against this, I think it's just not a good practice in general."
The Harrigan brood -- chickens and people -- and likely the other coop-keepers on the block would disagree. But Harrigan keeps her clucking tenants outdoors year-round just in case.
"No, we don't bring them inside, they are happier outside," Harrigan said. "But we do get very close to them and so far, disease-free."