Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin's Free Range Chicken; Chickie-Wickie Comes and Goes as She Pleases

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin's Free Range Chicken; Chickie-Wickie Comes and Goes as She Pleases

Article excerpt

Byline: KAY DAY

Editor's note: Mandarin writer Kay Day submitted this essay about her family's recent encounter with an unexpected plucky guest.

At times I've been surprised by wild animals in my back yard.

There was the baby possum hanging onto the oleander bush one night, and not long after, a large turtle inching his way around the edge of the yard. We have a resident black racer snake who often suns on the sago palm. None of this surprises me because our area has seen a lot of land-clearing for new housing developments.

But last week, our family met our first "feral" chicken.

We noticed her because the family cat, Louie, uttering a low growl, was crouching near dense shrubbery by the pool house. The cat began to slink away and a wild series of clucking sounds ensued. On investigation, we found a hen strutting around as if she owned the place. Just as I began to wonder how she scaled an 8-foot fence to get in the yard, she hopped onto a lower branch of an oak tree and proceeded to hop and fly her way to the top. Our beagle hound began to bay with joy. He figured a hunt was under way.

Johnny Perez, shelter manager for the Jacksonville Humane Society, offered some insight on "feral" chickens.

"There are wild chickens," he explains, "but they're called that only because they've been out in the wild."

Such chickens do not occur naturally in the wild, of course. They have simply adjusted to an untamed state.

Dave Flagler, chief of the Division of Animal Care and Control for Jacksonville, says nuisance chicken calls are not that unusual.

"There was an old chicken farm in the northern part of the city, and there were lots of chickens running around in a neighborhood," he recalled. "We generally try to trap them with chicken-feed bait, and then we try to relocate them."

He adds that there's even a small flock of chickens that graze the grounds at the center where he works. The chief says roosters are a bigger problem than hens. Most people don't appreciate a cockle-doodle-doo wakeup call at 4 a.m.

Miss Chickie-Wickie, as we call her, hasn't been a noisy guest. …

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