If you’ve ever visited Key West, Florida you’ve noticed that feral chickens roam the streets. Nicknamed gypsy chickens they are descendants of domestic jungle fowl brought to the islands in the 1800s and 1950s for meat and cockfighting. Some of their ancestors escaped captivity but many were released when cockfighting was outlawed in the 1970s. They are doing so well that their population periodically explodes.
Life is pretty easy for a gypsy chicken. They have few predators and even those who are trapped and transported to the mainland during population explosions become free range chickens at safe participating farms.
However, one thing goes wrong for them. When people feed them disease spreads easily through their population and many chickens die. That’s what’s happening this fall as described by Key West Animal Rescue:
While it’s common for the wild chickens to get sick this time of year due to natural occurring bacteria in the soil, the City of Key West posted, “there is a larger than usual outbreak of botulism killing the birds, and feeding them can be lethal.”— Key West Animal Rescue Site, Sick Feral Chickens, 28 Sept 2020
Key West Chicken Rescue tries to save them.
The calls continue to come in about chickens found lying on the ground that are too weak to stand with their eyes closed. The rescue is hard at work saving as many sick birds as possible.— Key West Animal Rescue Site, Sick Feral Chickens, 28 Sept 2020
Meanwhile the City of Key West has put out a plea to stop feeding the chickens.
Officials at the Key West Wildlife Center are asking residents to refrain from feeding chickens, noting that there is a…Posted by City of Key West — Government on Monday, September 28, 2020
As with many well intentioned things feeding the chickens ends badly for the birds. They get poor nutrition, disease spreads in the flock, they start fighting, and they lose their normal nomadic ways. It’s all described on this local poster.
Please don’t feed the gypsy chickens.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, poster from Key West Chicken Rescue on Facebook; click on the captions to see the originals)