As It Happens

'Poop everywhere': Key West bans chicken feeding to rein in roaming wild birds

City leaders in Key West, Fla. are trying to pass a ban on feeding wild chickens that roam the streets. The chickens are a popular part of the city's appeal but they also leave poop everywhere, and one resident said they nip at her ankles.

Chickens have dug up the grounds around Key West's post office, says city commissioner

A rooster rests on the limb of a tree in Key West, Florida. The city wants to ban people from feeding the fowl, because the birds are pooping everywhere and damaging property. There are also concerns they could spread disease. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

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The problem with feeding chickens is that it results in chicken poop — a lot of it.

Feeding the wild chickens that roam the streets of Key West, Fla. is a popular activity for some residents, but others are disturbed by the dung and the potential spread of disease, property damage, even chickens nipping at their ankles.

This week, city leaders unanimously approved an ordinance banning feeding the chickens after a first reading, though it must still pass a vote to legally come into effect. 

"We got chicken poop everywhere," City Commissioner Clayton Lopez told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Clayton Lopez is a city commissioner for Key West, Fla. He says that the feeding ban is just one of the steps the city is taking to manage the wild chickens. (Submitted by Clayton Lopez)

He said that the grounds around the city's historic post office used to be well kept, but the chickens have dug it all up.

"And then, of course, the concrete walkways and the like are all just pretty much covered [in poop]."

Lopez said it was his friend, an attorney, who had her ankles pecked.

"When she's leaving her own property, the chickens apparently have gotten word that she's not a fan," he said.

People dress up like chickens to feed them

Lopez said that while there is an official Key West chicken catcher who works to cull the chickens, the ban is needed for people who really like feeding the birds. 

"We need to stop these folks that buy chicken feed in 50 pound bags," he said. "We even have people that dress up like chicken[s], OK, and ride tricycles with various types of of feed."

A vehicle waits as two roosters cross the road in Key West. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

He recalled an instance in which a woman in his district chased the chickens onto a neighbour's property to make sure the chickens ate. 

"And the neighbour's not a fan of the fowl, you know," said Lopez. "It is laughable, but it gets pretty annoying as well."

There are a lot of chickens in Key West, if the numbers of rescued fowl are any indication — the Key West Wildlife Center told the Miami Herald they had taken in about 1,800 chickens in 2020.

"These guys are pretty bold, they will come right up to you and almost demand that you feed them," said Lopez.

When chicken catchers catch the birds, Lopez said they are sent to one of three breeding farms in Florida, but the chickens aren't eaten.

Still, said Lopez, the feeding ban is a step in the right direction. He thinks that a lot of people enjoying feeding the chickens because they think it's helpful.

"They feel a sympathy for the animal and think that they're doing what's good for that animal when in reality they're actually doing the opposite,' he said. 

Written by Andrea Bellemare. Produced by Chris Harbord. 


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