Chickens in Florida

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Photo: Kelly Dean

Chickens in Florida

By Kelly Dean

In Key West, Florida, chickens are common and some are famous, having their own agent and everything. They run around free and no one thinks anything about them.
It’s folklore where they came from in the first place, like Ernest Hemingway’s multi-toed cats. But they’re there and they’re all over.  I can understand the appeal in non-rural areas for people relocating to Florida: Chickens are great food and their eggs would be super fresh, so long as you could find them when they’re roaming around so much. I’m sure in the state’s rural areas they are common as well, but everyone expects to see them there.

hen2-customSo why am I writing about chickens? Is there some kind of likelihood readers might want to acquire chickens themselves after they relocate to Florida?

I don’t know. But some people in Florida, regardless of the type of neighborhood, often get chickens and choose to release them to free-roam their subdivision and they are far from Key West. I find this interesting. There are so many things about people who move to Florida I don’t always understand and this is one of them. It’s like a mild version of those who buy boas and other exotic snakes and release them in the Everglades.

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Rooster, Key West, Photo: Kelly Dean

Many, I assume, think Floridian’s are more laid-back and having a chicken you feed once a day in your backyard would seem a little quirky. Well, it is. And it’s easy to understand this unorthodox view, based upon all the weird press that comes out of Florida.

I have a neighbor at the end of the block who has chickens housed in his garage. I see them frequently when I’m taking a walk by his house in the evenings. This isn’t a farmhouse. This is a house you’d see in any development in Florida: stucco, Mediterranean arches, palm trees, the usual.

img_1008-customIf you live in a neighborhood where there are free-roaming chickens, you are going to have to get accustomed to hearing all the same things Farmer Brown had to get accustomed to hearing. The male rooster’s crow can surprise you. It doesn’t always sound like “cock-a-doodle-doo,” sometimes they only do the “cock-a” part and it sounds like a car slamming on its breaks from a distance.

They definitely like to crow, and your first instinct is to think someone is yelling some kind of trouble situation until you remember, “Oh, it’s just the rooster in my neighbor’s garage. It’s perfectly normal.” It is popular myth that they only crow in the morning. That isn’t true. Roosters crow at different times of the day, although they might crow more in the morning. It’s hard to say.

I don’t know how these neighbors feed these creatures. Do they just drop some corn on the driveway, or invite them into the house for din-din? At my other house (yes, that neighborhood had chickens too), someone took to feeding the rooster in a foreclosed house’s lanai. That was mighty nice of them. If the chicken wanted to take a dip after eating, it could swim in the pool.

rooster4-customUnderstand, this is not a big epidemic: many read about stuff from Florida and think it is a huge issue. Such is not the case. You may never have chickens in your residential area. But if you do, remember they are great with rice. Kidding … sort of.

Oh, and you will miss them when they’re gone, for some unknown reason.

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