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Key West Chickens: How Chickens Run Free Around The City
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If you’ve ever been to the Florida Keys, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Key West chickens roaming freely and occasionally even stumbling into a shop or restaurant. The big chicken population in Key West is real, and people love it. 

But why do these cute little birds roam the streets unchecked, and where did they come from?

The Key West chickens descended from the Caribbean region’s native jungle fowl in Cuba. Early Key West residents kept their hens in coups and used them as food, which was typical for them. Being able to provide for oneself was crucial because there were no railways or bridges yet.

The Gypsy Chickens of Key West

What’s up with the chickens? This is a common query from visitors to the island. 

Locals refer to them as gypsy chickens. Some backyard hens earned their freedom when people ceased the time-consuming practice of turning live chickens into Sunday supper many decades ago. When cockfighting was outlawed, other roosters were liberated.

Since Key West is a no-kill island, it didn’t take long for the chicken population to explode on this two-by-four-mile island! But when they are present everywhere, what was once enjoyable becomes a hassle.

Population Control on Key West Chickens

City commissioners are acting because the population is out of control, not by looking for supplies for a sizable tailgate party but by going after the human enablers. The practice of feeding the Key West chickens is now forbidden.

These chicks are chubby and have no trouble finding food. While some residents purchase big bags of birdseed for them, tourists often feed them popcorn or French fries. According to the proposed ordinance reported by the Miami Herald, those who feed them would be subject to fines of $250 for a first offense and $500 for repeat offenders.

Meanwhile, Key West Wildlife Center lends locals a humane chicken trap to catch stray chickens when the population of the birds outgrows control and voracious hawks leave the area. 

After being apprehended, the resident takes the chickens to the facility. They receive care there before being sent to various farms on the mainland. They are valued for their eggs and employed as “organic pest control” workers on the mainland.

The Key West chickens offer organic insect control at organic farms. The birds are released into huge net tubes that extend between rows of plantings to keep them from consuming the crops. They can consume bugs here, which will organically nourish the soil.

Are Key West Chickens A Nuisance To The Local Community?

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The Key West chickens are protected. By protected, it means that the locals are not permitted to harm them. People in the neighborhood are divided into those who don’t mind the chickens and those who do. 

Only some people like the idea of having hundreds of hens running freely. Imagine dozens of roosters crowing nonstop, the fact that hens poop a lot, and the fact that they enjoy foraging for food and will consume anything they can find.

There are still places where you will see few. However, they are essentially everywhere on an island that is only around 4 miles long and 2 miles wide.

Visit The Key West Chickens On Your Next Vacation

If there aren’t enough chickens roaming the streets of Key West, you may stop into the Key West Wildlife Center, where a number of injured animals are being treated, and several more are caged and waiting to be transported. It’s free, and hawks, pelicans, osprey, herons, and egrets are frequently seen within and around the cages.

Do you want to adopt a Key West chicken? The wildlife center gladly allows non-Florida Keys residents to adopt a bird. A contract must be signed declaring that the bird is to be kept as a pet and not for food. Every chicken adopted comes with a letter certifying that they are truly descended from “Key West Chickens”!

While you’re on the island visiting the chickens, you can also experience other activities that Key West has to offer. Some things to do in Key West are also free! You can try glamping in the Florida Keys to appreciate more the breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Key West Chickens FAQs

If you’ve ever been to the Florida Keys, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Key West chickens roaming freely and occasionally even stumbling into a shop or restaurant.

Locals refer to them as gypsy chickens. Some backyard hens earned their freedom when people ceased the time-consuming practice of turning live chickens into Sunday supper many decades ago. When cockfighting was outlawed, other roosters were liberated.

The Key West chickens are protected. By protected, it means that the locals are not permitted to harm them.

Key West Wildlife Center lends locals a humane chicken trap to catch stray chickens when the population of the birds outgrows control and voracious hawks leave the area. 

They receive care there before being sent to various farms on the mainland. They are valued for their eggs and employed as “organic pest control” workers on the mainland.

The Key West chickens don’t have that many natural predators, according to the Key West Wildlife Center. Hawks that are migrating are considered as one of their predators, but they don’t diminish the number of the chicken population.

Since Key West is a no-kill island, it didn’t take long for the chicken population to explode on this two-by-four-mile island!

The residents of Key West who are most frequently captured on camera are the roosters. The term “roosters” might be related to the fact that the majority of chickens spend the nighttime “roosting” in trees. 

Roosters are fiercely loyal to their hens and will defend them. The roosters that became the Key West Roosters were bred in Cuba and the Florida Keys to battle.

People in the neighborhood are divided into those who don’t mind the chickens and those who do. 

Only some people like the idea of having hundreds of hens running freely. Imagine dozens of roosters crowing nonstop, the fact that hens poop a lot, and the fact that they enjoy foraging for food and will consume anything they can find.

Janelle
Author: Janelle

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