The Origin of the Key West Gypsy Chicken
Though it is thought that these birds have been in Key West for over 175 years, their numbers certainly grew in the 1950s, when thousands of Cubans fled the Revolution and came to Key West to support a booming cigar industry. These Cubans brought their chickens with them.
The birds were used for meat and eggs, but the roosters were especially prized for their beauty and prowess for cockfighting. Over time, many birds escaped their enclosures, or were “released” by owners no longer interested in maintaining chickens once eggs and poultry became readily available in local markets. With few predators on the island (except hawks and feral cats) the “wild” chickens thrived on a diet of native insects and lizards. Several generations later, these birds still roam freely throughout the island.
This picture is included in my KEY WEST CALENDAR 2011.