The Florida Chicken Turtle
By Kelly Dean
I was able to grab this shot of a dusty chicken turtle in a field behind my home. Usually the Florida sea turtles get all the press, so I thought I’d give this fellow a write-up, largely because Florida’s chicken turtle has its own subspecies you’ll only find here (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea).
They are so-named because their meat allegedly does indeed “taste like chicken,” but I can’t vouch for this.
Folks raise regular chickens here too by the way.
Although they are not threatened in Florida, the chicken turtle is a fairly rare sight. They like to commute between water locations and often burrow as well. If you’re lucky, you might catch one on its way between a Florida canal, lake or pond, both brackish and fresh. As they are omnivorous, they need the watery environment to live — for the varied diet, consisting of small fish, shrimp, crayfish, insects, frogs and plants but they are not afraid to journey on land to find food.
There is concern for this turtle, however. In Virginia, their sub-species is indeed threatened and the adult’s worst enemy is unfortunately the automobile. So keep an eye out for them when they are crossing the road seeking some cool water. Add chicken turtles to the list of wildlife to lookout for when driving, like the alligator and Florida panther.
You have heard the joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Well, think about the turtle in this case. It is the Florida thing to do.