Brooklyn animal lover takes in refugee chicken

Butcher refugee finds new home in Ditmas Park

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Ditmas Park became a hen haven for one adventurous chicken that escaped a Kensington butcher’s blade and wandered the streets of Brooklyn until the plucky fowl found a new home on Cortelyou Road, according to the animal lover sheltering the refugee in her backyard.

Jennifer Wilenta said that when her friend called her about a chicken looking for asylum inside a Kensington churchyard on 18th Avenue near E. Eighth Street, she rushed over and took her home.

“She’s just happy to be here,” said Wilenta, who brought the bird into a home filled with six other chickens, two dogs, a snake and a lizard. “She’s being very well loved by my two children.”

Wilenta said the chicken, which her family has named Freebird, had a clipped beak and a string tied around her foot when she was found — evidence that the courageous clucker may have escaped from a commercial butchering operation, a handful of which can still be found in Brooklyn. Some surmise that Freebird may have been next in line for the butcher’s scythe, but dashed out before the blade could fall, Wilenta said.

Freebird isn’t talking, but Wilenta said the chicken’s apparent brush with death has left the animal traumatized.

“She doesn’t roost like most chickens do — she doesn’t want to go up high,” said Wilenta, who originally wrote about the chicken on a Ditmas Park listserv with the subject “Anyone lose a chicken?” “She nestles down to the ground like she was tied to something and hasn’t learned to go up, but she doesn’t mind being held. She came right to me when I called her.”

Wilenta says that Freebird is in no danger of becoming anyone’s lunch or dinner, but says her eggs — once the rescued chicken starts laying some — will have a place at the breakfast table.

Yet Freebird’s new home isn’t complete paradise: she’s settled into Wilenta’s chicken coop comfortably, but it took awhile for the Ditmas Park resident’s other hens to take the new addition into their feathery fold.

“The term pecking order comes from chickens,” Wilenta said. “The oldest hen we have was not so thrilled when Freebird first came and pecked at her a bit. She told Freebird who was boss and now everything seems fine.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at

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