Our recent visit to Key West is now fading into memory as I begin the prep work for the Summer Season of Tours. There’s one thing left to do… I promised Georgie Atherton that I ‘d write about the Key West Gypsy Chickens!
Way back in the day, Key West residents kept chickens, both for the pot and for cock-fighting. Some of these escaped and became feral and they have successfully adapted, bred and survived in the wild, to the point where they are now to be seen everywhere in Key West. They are known locally as Gypsy Chickens. They enjoy protected status.
It takes a little while for the visitor to get used to the fact that chickens can, and do, turn up everywhere and seem to be quite relaxed about sharing the space with humans. Feral chickens are actually able to fly, unlike their domesticated cousins, which is how we first noticed them. We were in a busy bar at the port, enjoying the live music and a cold one when Georgie looked up and noticed that the overhanging tree was chock-full of chickens. We did a quick review of our previous alcohol consumption to check that these chickens weren’t a symptom of something worrying and then checked with our server that we weren’t seeing things, and that’s how we learned about the Gypsy Chickens.
Apparently, local Key West residents opinion on the chickens is divided; some are quite relaxed about them and others regard them as a menace. It’s certainly true that if a family sets up store near your home then you’re in for a noisy ride, and there’s not much you can do since they are protected. If you’re unfortunate enough to live near a “Nuisance Chicken” you’ll have to call the Nuisance Chicken Hotline. The chickens will be trapped and then passed to the local wildlife centre for relocation.
I get that Nuisance Chickens can be, well, a nuisance but in general, I think that the Key West world is a better place for having these strange animals free to wander around. It adds character and colour to an area already bursting with interest. Think how much more interesting our lives in the UK would be if we designated an animal species (My choice would be goats) as protected and gave them free rein to wander around and turn up anywhere at any time. Also, the goats would mean that I don’t have to mow the lawn so often. Just an idea.