Probably the most photographed inhabitants of Key West are the multicolored, strutting, crowing roosters seen all over town. Most of the roosters, hens and their offspring are wild but are a routine sight and sound on the streets and backyards of the island.

If you have a prized garden covered with mulch, pea rock or exposed dirt, you have probably had a close encounter with our feathered friends. Chickens are powerful diggers and will uproot almost anything on the surface of the ground scavenging tasty bugs.

A rooster, also known as a cockerel, or cock, is a male chicken. The term “rooster” originated in the United States while “cock” is derived from Old English. Most chickens “roost” in trees to sleep at night.

Roosters are territorial and will defend their hens and territory against intruders. Their disposition is easy to understand if you take into account their roots.

Key West roosters are the descendants of roosters that were bred in Cuba and the Keys for fighting. For centuries, a winning cockfight rooster was as a valuable source of income and bragging rights. Cockfights are no longer legal in the United States.

While today’s roosters are prized for their spectacularly colored plumage, they still possess the fighting spirit of their ancestors. They are known to be fiercely protective of their hens and offspring. It is in their genes to guard against threats from the air, such as hawk attacks, along with snake, rodent, cat, dog and other rooster threats. Their bravado is a tribute to the success of their hens and the life expectancy of her brood.

Their tenacity has earned them the respect of chicken farmers from all over the country. There is a long waiting list from chicken farms to adopt roosters from the Wildlife Rescue Center in Key West.  

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