The City of Key West is cracking down on illicit chicken feeding after the City Commission voted unanimously to add stricter language to its animal ordinance. Additional language in chapter 10 of the City’s Code of Ordinances makes it unlawful to feed or set out water for chickens and pigeons. There is an exception for the keeping of the birds in fully enclosed coops or pens. Pigeons were included in the new law to avoid possible excuses by violators.
Violation of the ordinance will result in a $500 fine.
Over the years, feral chickens have been problematic as the number of birds has boomed, due in large part by people feeding them. The Key West Wildlife Rescue Center has played a big role in helping keep the chicken population down. Working with the city and residents, they have, since 2009 removed over 16,000 chickens from this tiny island.
According to Tom Sweet, who runs the Wildlife Rescue Center, virtually all of the birds that are trapped end up in new homes on the mainland.
“Our clinic maintains around a 50 percent survival and recovery rate for chickens that we rescue that come in already compromised with sickness or injuries,” Sweet wrote in a memo to the Commission. “An important point for the public to know is that virtually 100 percent of birds trapped through the community program make it to new homes on the mainland while around 50 percent of those rescued and treated recover and do as well.”
Sweet says feeding is the main reason the population has grown.
“These birds are nomadic by nature,” he wrote, “and exploit different areas for food in the wild and then move on to other areas. Once people start feeding them, they remain permanently in residential/business areas and begin to reproduce quickly.”
Although the Wildlife Center does not trap chickens, they can provide loaner traps with a small deposit. Still, trapping a group of birds will do no good if people continue to feed in the area. A new group of birds will move in, drawn by the easy meal. And those chickens will continue a legacy of crowing all night and tearing up gardens.
If residents want to trap the birds, or be referred to a professional trapper, contact the Wildlife Center at 305-292-1008. The dedicated staff there can also provide advice on other humane deterrents that can be deployed to discourage chickens.
If you do trap your own chickens, they must be brought to the Wildlife Center in a timely manner so that they are treated humanely and relocated to a mainland farm to live out their days.