POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – You can find them hanging on the streets and gathering in parking lots at area businesses, leading to complaints from people in the northwest section of Pompano Beach who say they’re disrupting the neighborhood.
No, it’s not wild teens, it’s wild chickens that are multiplying at an uncontrollable rate and aggravating those who say the feral fowl are messing up their lawns, waking them up at ungodly hours, and overall causing a mess.
"The chickens are a big complaint for this community,” said City Commissioner Beverly Perkins, adding that the chickens got on the city’s radar a couple of years ago and just keep growing in numbers. "We're not sure where they're coming from, but they're multiplying."
Apartment manager Cristina Costa said the chicken problem is so bad that she was driven to offer tenants a discount on their rent if they could “disappear” them.
"You have chickens getting inside units, all over the parking lot, showing units you have chickens walking around you," said Costa.
The deal was $10 off for ever six chickens caught, but nobody ever collected.
"They tried, but they couldn't catch the chickens," said Costa.
She called Animal Control, but that agency simply doesn’t do chickens, so she called the city itself which actually sent out trappers, but again, no luck.
"They couldn't catch one chicken," she said.
Rob McCaughan, the city’s public works director, said one thing he’s learned in his crash course on city chickens is that even though they number in the hundreds, perhaps thousands, in plain sight, they are not easy to rein in.
"The chicken itself is very difficult to catch," said McCaughan. "They are very leery of people. Wehired a local firm, we thought, 'Well hey, we're not experts, let's hire the experts.' They were not very successful either."
He said the city paid the company, TruTech Wildlife Removal, $1000 a month to respond to residents’ complaints and catch chickens.
"Over about a nine-month period where we had the contract, it was approximately six chickens that we had documentation they were able to capture," said McCaughan, adding that those six chickens were humanely put down with lethal injections.
Doing the math, that comes to $1,500 a chicken captured.
"Bad investment," said resident Joshua Allen with a laugh. "I guess the chickens are smarter."
Pompano Mayor Lamar Fisher said the city is dedicated to finding an answer.
"We're trying our best to deal with it,” said Fisher. “It's a complicated issue."
He said one of the reasons that it’s difficult to tame the wild chicken population is that some cultures welcome them.
“We have a lot of Latins in our community,” he said. “We have a lot of Hatian communities that cater to chickens.”
The city at one point tried to use code enforcement officers to cite the chicken owners, since it is illegal in Pompano to have chickens as pets. But Code Enforcement Supervisor Mario Sotolango said that too was a futile effort, since nobody admitted they were the owners of the chickens and the city was hard-pressed to prove otherwise.
"It's very difficult to have someone really admit yes this is my property," said Sotolango.
"How do you prove someone owns a chicken? You don’t," said city spokeswoman Sandra King.
McCaughan said he reached out to other cities that have neighborhoods overrun with chickens – including Miami, Hialeah, and Key West. He said the first two cities had no solution to offer Pompano Beach, but Key West did: embrace the chickens.
"I guess Key West has accepted the chickens," said McCaughan. "They embrace the chickens, is their solution."
Pompano isn’t embracing the Key West solution, however. The city has six chicken traps that it offers free of charge to residents. But so far only a few chickens have been caught by residents and it’s not a fool-proof method.
"A lot of times we catch an animal," said McCaughan. "We don’t want to catch a cat or small dog."
At the time of our interview, all six of the city’s traps were unused, but officials from the mayor down said the city is determined to solve the problem.
"We believe at some point that we, if we’re not able to eradicate the problem, will contain it," said Sotolango.