The bleak winter sky fades the outdoor palette of the season, painting each color across the landscape a muted graduation of grey. The sky says winter…but still no snow. Michigan winters are no longer the winters of my youth. I remember as a child each year, tucking in some cold night in November, the roof line outside my bedroom window, black, clear and the asphalt shingles sparkling in the moonlight. You could smell the snow coming. A dry smell that caught in the nose like the beginning of a sneeze, subtle, exciting and something you learned growing up in the north.
I would wake to a world carpeted in feet of snow. It would pile up in wisps and mounds, frost covered windows in swirls of feathers and paisley, and the roar of the snow blower as my father carved out the driveway and sidewalks in a labyrinth of ice.
To be fair, I’m sure that a portion of this nostalgic evaluation is a bit of the exaggerated memory of a child, but there’s no denying that unless things change over the next few days, this will be our second “mud” Christmas two years in a row. My line of thinking is, if it’s going to be cold, it should at least be pretty with glistening white…and around here I would eloquently describe the scenery as BLAH!
Since my hopes of a white Christmas are quickly dwindling, (the 7 day forecast being no help whatsoever!) I feel my mood skipping past the cozy cold of winter and on to warmer, brighter days. I have been craving the cheerful sun, white sandy beaches and the soothing smell of coconut sun tan lotion.
So at this point you might be asking, what does all this whining about the weather have to do with chickens?
And my friends, there is an answer… fellow chicken enthusiasts, there is a place… a magical place that combines a plethora of chickens and the warmth and comforts of a tropical island paradise, and that place is Key West.
Key West is the southernmost island off the coast of Florida. It enjoys a year-round climate of warm balmy weather, with an average temperature of about 78 degrees, and is one of the few places in the United States that has never experienced a frost. ~Key West Weather
This time of year, the islanders “Deck The Halls” with great enthusiasm and spirit, with spectacular light displays being one of the main attractions that tourists enjoy. Christmas events include Reggae themed holiday concerts, art and history tours and even a Lighted Boat Parade.
And while this may be enough for some of you to start packing your Santa swimwear, hold on to your sandals because Key West offers something even more attractive to our particular poultry community…that being, the Gypsy Chicken.
The Gypsy what!???
The Gypsy Chickens are a feral population of chickens that inhabit the island of Key West. There is debate as to how long these birds have actually been living in the wild, but most opinions are that the chickens are descendents of the Cubalaya a “gorgeous breed with long, lustrous tail featherskept mainly in Cuba but originated in the East (probably the Phillipines). In North America, Cubalayas are rare and enjoyed only as an ornamental breed. The hens can lay fairly well, though. The roosters, on the other hand, can be aggressive and can also have multiple spurs.” ~My Pet Chicken.
And breed they did!
The chickens are found on city streets, sidewalks, perched on park benches and roosted in trees. A wise man once said that the Gypsy Chicken is to Key West as the Pigeon is to New York City. In other words, they are everywhere!
For the most part the chickens are a welcomed aspect of Key West living. Most people enjoy the chickens and the ambiance that they bring. They are seen as a part of the island’s culture, history and are an expected sight by tourists. However, there is concern as to how the population of chickens effects the original ecosystem of the Island. They are considered an invasive species and some worry about the negative effects that the chickens may have on the native plants, insects and lizard population.
For the time being, the chickens are left to range Key West. For a chicken addict like myself, this tropical paradise with the added attraction of chickens sprinkled among the palm trees seems like an irresistible vacation destination!
But for those of you who are unable to fly south for the winter, but would like to incorporate a bit of island living to your own backyard flock, Gypsy chickens are available for adoption! When the population gets excessive the birds are rounded up and re-homed outside the island.