West South

YBOR CITY – Lookin for chicks?

The city of Tampa is a designated bird sanctuary and the feral chickens that roam freely and rule the roost in the Ybor City Historic district are protected under that ordinance. The chickens have a following with a Facebook page, a parade, and even their own society called the Ybor City Chicken Society. The Chicken Society’s main mission is to keep the peace between the chickens and the business owners (meaning they clean up after the chickens). But where did all those chickens come from?

The earliest residents of Ybor City migrated here over 100 years ago to work in the cigar industry. Tampa became known as Cigar city, and it is said that in the 1920s, half a billion hand-rolled cigars were being produced by mostly immigrants from Cuba, Spain, and Sicily. One story has it that the Cuban immigrants brought the chickens up with them for food, eggs, and even pets. The chickens of Ybor today are the direct descendants of the chickens of Ybor’s original residents.

But there is another story that claims the chickens may not be so historic after all. It’s still an immigrant story but one of the more recent past. In the 1980s, a Jamaican immigrant and restaurateur bought 40 chickens, built a chicken coop, and planted sugar cane on a piece of property across the street from his restaurant. In 1993 when a storm came through the area, the coop’s roof was blown off, and the chickens were left to roam free.

People began to become caretakers for the roaming chickens, and one man, in particular, became their biggest fan and began feeding the chickens in his yard. When the neighbors started complaining, city code enforcement became involved and threatened the man with fines if he could not control the chickens hanging out on his property. The man came up with an ingenious plan to protect the chickens and get out of paying a hefty fine. He told code enforcement authorities about the chickens being the direct descendants of the Chickens of yesteryear, so therefore they were Historic Chickens and must be protected!!! It worked.

Whatever the real story is it does not matter as today the chickens of Ybor are celebrated and have become a part of the city’s charm. Once a year residents and visitors alike even mourn the ones that have moved on to the great chicken coop in the sky with a New Orleans style funeral procession down 7th avenue, the main street of the city. The all-in fun parade and funeral procession complete with costumes and some adult refreshments is called the James E. Rooster parade and is named in honor of one of the favorite roosters killed by a dog. FYI no one knows what happened to that dog…….

To learn more about or become a fan of the Ybor Chickens visit http://yborchickens.com

Learn More about Ybor City



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