Playing Chicken in Key West

I’ve had a special affinity for chickens for over 50 years.  I think it started when our neighbor, Jerry Bradshaw, gave me a chicken to raise for my 4H project back when I was about ten years old.  Frankly, I was never a good chicken farmer, but I loved having them around.

Key West Rooster

Key West Rooster

Fast forward 50+ years.  We first visited Key West in 2012 for a few days.  We had just checked into our B&B and were walking towards Duval street when we saw our first Key West chicken.  I loved it!  And, Mona loved it…but for different reasons.  She thought it was just so funny and cute that chickens were allowed to wander the streets.  She even loved the rooster that was chasing us as we were geocaching in the historic cemetery.

Looking for the chicken of the sea.

Now, in 2015, we were back in Key West again…this time for a full week.  Of course the chickens are still there and we still love them.  This time we learned a little history about the chickens while on the Old Town Trolley tour.  Turns out that the chickens were originally brought over by Cuban immigrants with the intent of using them for cock fighting. Of course cock fighting is illegal in the US so they let the birds go. The chickens are now protected so people can’t hurt them and since they have no natural predators on the island they are flourishing. These days the chickens go by a variety of names including “Gypsy Chickens”, “the national bird of Key West”, or just pests. Residents can trap any pesky chickens and take them to a local shelter. About 1500 chickens end up in the shelter each year, but there are still plenty of chickens around!

We never found out why.

We never found out why.

You’ll see the chickens crossing the streets, in yards, on porches and even sometimes they’ll come in to a restaurant to check to see if you’re getting good service.  BTW: Do you know how to tell if it’s an old chicken crossing the street?  They get in the middle and forget which way they were going.  (Trust me, when you get older that joke will hit home for you!)  You also hear the roosters with their wake-up crowing starting every morning around 4:00.  Some of us (me) love that and some (Mona) don’t.

"You better be eating shrimp!"

“You better be eating shrimp!”

All that crowing got me thinking and so I proposed a contest.  We should see who could do the best imitation of a Key West rooster crowing.  Frankly, I’ve been practicing my crowing since I was a young boy back in my 4H days so I was certain of a win, but I thought it would be fun to see what Mona came up with.

As chance would have it, my turn came first.  We were on top of the tower at the Shipwreck Museum and Mona told me it was time for me to crow.  It so happened that I was wearing my brand new Key West Rooster shirt so I knew I had this one in the bag.  I did a few practice struts and cleared my throat and let loose.  “Errrr, er er de errr!!!”  Well, that doesn’t really do a good job of relaying my awesome crowing so here’s a video:

Marvin’s Key West Crowing

I realize that’s only three seconds but if you close your eyes you’d think you’re actually hearing a real rooster.  Right?!?  And if you open your eyes you see that incredible shirt.

Mona decided she wasn’t to be outdone but frankly, she hasn’t been around chickens much so she really didn’t know the intricacies of crowing.  However, next morning before we left our condo she gave it a try.  Here’s her video:

If you’re any kind of chicken aficionado you can easily spot the inaccuracies of Mona’s crowing.  Again, right?!?!  However, I must admit that our Facebook “friends” voted and they chose Mona’s rendition over mine.  For the life of me I just can’t understand why!

After all is said and done, who wins really doesn’t matter does it?  What matters is that we love all those free-range chickens and just visiting Key West makes us all winners, right?



As always, if you’re looking for information on what to see and do in Key West go to: Key West Attractions

Here’s a link to the Old Town Trolley that I mentioned: Key West Trolley




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One Response to Playing Chicken in Key West

  1. Drew December 3, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Love free roaming chickens. Got pretty used to them when we spent 6 weeks traveling through SE Asia. Especially in Cambodia. Most meals came with chickens running around your feet. The early morning rooster activity left something to be desired though!

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