Officials at the Key West Wildlife Center are asking residents to refrain from feeding chickens, noting that there is a larger than usual outbreak of botulism killing the birds, and feeding them can be lethal.
The Center is receiving many calls by concerned residents who think the birds are being poisoned. These outbreaks occur every year at this time but it comes from a naturally occurring bacteria in the soil that, when it’s activated, is ingested by chickens by drinking muddy water or eating food people put out for them, scattered on the ground.
This is yet another reason people should not be feeding chickens. The feeding increases the population and can lead to a terrible death for the birds you think you're helping.
The City of Key West and the Key West Wildlife Center have been working together for 11 years to reduce the number of feral chickens roaming our streets, but we need your help. Since 2009, nearly 15,000 birds have been relocated to the mainland. But still the numbers continue to rise.
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.
In 2009, when we began working together on this, there were 938 birds removed. In 2019, that number rose to over 1700.
If you 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 advise you 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.