From my observations it takes something special to make a New Yorker engage a stranger - a particularly cute baby, an especially good book (like the exclamations I got while reading Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle recently), shared frustration over some shortcoming of public transit (okay, so maybe that last one's not so special, but commiseration is still nice).
I find those moments are especially few and far between in neighborhoods like the ones I live and work in, where differences in language and race and the tensions of gentrification further inhibit conversation. So one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary week (lots of tax clients + freezing rain + working every day), was reading this story from the NY Times. Set in Bed-Stuy (the neighborhood I work in), it involves not only one of those rare opportunities to break the code of non-interaction, it also features chickens.
And what's not to love? There's something intrinsically happy about a chicken. The name: a little hiccup in the mouth. The shape: a jaunty upswing of feathers, a grin. The ceaseless bobbing, scratching, pecking. It's nearly impossible to feel melancholy in the presence of chickens.