Posts Tagged ‘key west’

Residents of Key West Cry “Fowl” over Feral Chickens

A rooster roaming free in Key West.

Visitors to Key West can’t help but notice the chickens that wander around town, pecking at discarded French fries and potato chips and nesting in alleys and vacant lots. They make for charming tourist photo ops, but some of the locals are understandably annoyed by the frequent crowing at all hours, chicken droppings on sidewalks and door stoops, and even the threatening behavior of some of the more aggressive roosters.

These feral chickens are well fed–even without scraps of food from humans, they can feast on Florida’s abundant foliage and insect population. But some residents purchase bags of food for the critters, and feeding the chickens is a favorite tourist activity. The result: an exploding feral chicken population.

The wild chickens are considered an invasive species. As the chicken population spreads up the Keys, there is concern that they could crowd out some of the last remaining native species of the islands. As Tom Sweets, Executive Director of the Florida Wildlife Center points out, chickens don’t have many natural predators in Key West.

“We get hawks migrating through but they don’t really get the numbers down,” he said in an article for WFSU News.

On the other hand, organic farmers in the Keys welcome the chickens, because they are excellent foragers for bugs that could damage their crops, and their droppings make excellent fertilizer.

Enough people complained to local government about the birds that the Key West City Commission recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of feral chickens within city limits.

We at Home to Roost approve of this approach to controlling the chicken population, especially because feeding chickens fast food and random table scraps is bad for their health. Chickens are very good at foraging for their own food, especially in a lush environment like Key West.

Another solution that locals favor is to trap the chickens (without harming them) and bring them to the Key West Wildlife Center. Then the chickens are transported to farms and stables on the Florida mainland.

The chicken has become an unofficial symbol of the island, frequently seen on t-shirts, caps, and artwork for sale in Key West boutiques. When I visited the island a few years ago, I fondly remember the Funky Chicken Store. Visiting a vacation area where the chickens run free has its charms, as long as the local chicken population is managed responsibly.

The Urban Chicken Consultant Recommends: The Chicken Store

Back in 2000, I went on a cruise with my friends Bill and Vickie. We were biking around Key West, and I spotted a bike with a license plate that said “The Chicken Store.” I quickly flagged our tour guide, who didn’t understand my enthusiasm, but nevertheless agreed to take us to the Chicken Store on Duval Street.

Apparently Key West has feral chickens. Lots of ’em. They hatch cute fuzzy little chicks, the roosters crow, they cross the road, they annoy residents. And people abuse them by breaking their legs, shooting them with BB guns, and other such nonsense.

The Chicken Store takes in the injured chickens and rehabilitates them, and then adopts them out. They sell all kinds of great chicken-related paraphernalia to help with the rescue efforts. Next time you’re in Key West, check out this store!

There are pictures of the chickens of Key West, as well as chicken-related merchandise, on their site: