Their coop runneth over: The story behind Key West’s feral chickens

(Note: Sweetums thought the subject of feral chickens was kinda boring. I, of course, am interested in the story behind every oddity. Plus, I had taken photos of the chickens when I was there a few years back with Baby Girl, so… If you’re bored, I’ll try to only write about chickens again unless there is a really good reason. Like in the event of a chicken coup…)

I noticed a story on AtlasObscura.com this week that reminded me of a trip Baby Girl and I took to Key West in summer of 2007 when she was 13. The story was about the number of feral chickens on Key West – as well as Kauai, and Bermuda – and the problems they cause for residents.

When we were there, along with an old high school friend and her daughter, we thought the sight of chickens roaming the streets made the locale that much more exotic. They seemed to especially enjoy the cemetery, where they would perch on tombstones.

The town has plenty of feral cats in the streets, too. (Separate, of course, from the adorable polydactyl, or six-toed, cats who are cared for at the Hemingway Home).

I clicked on the Atlas Obscura story and learned the rest of the chicken story. One reason, of course, is that Key West is surrounded by water, making it more likely the chickens will remain in one spot. But here are two origin stories of the Key West chickens, according to Atlas Obscura: “(It) is a blend of fact and legend. Some people say the birds came over with early settlers, who brought them as a source of eggs and meat. The advent of supermarkets made these birds less necessary, and their former owners set them free. Others maintain that they’re descendants of fighting cocks, imported by cigar workers from Cuba starting in the 1860s, and liberated after the sport was outlawed in Florida in 1986.”

While tourists may find them adorable, the chickens can be a nuisance for residents. The City of Key West handles those cases. Its website says, “If all else fails, and you are finding chickens to be a nuisance in your area, the wildlife center rents traps for a $100 refundable deposit. The residents catch the chickens, bring them to the center, and they are eventually re-located outside of the keys. They are adopted out to permanent homes where they are kept as pets; they are NOT killed.”

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