Tampa council hears mixed messages on free-roaming roosters in Ybor City

A rooster and two hens stop on the wall at Ybor City's Centennial Park before flying into the trees to roost for the night. The Tampa City Council is taking steps toward restricting the free-roaming fowl. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
A rooster and two hens stop on the wall at Ybor City's Centennial Park before flying into the trees to roost for the night. The Tampa City Council is taking steps toward restricting the free-roaming fowl. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published June 7
Updated June 7

TAMPA ó Ybor City roosters and chickens can peck away in peace. For now.

The Tampa City Council asked city attorneys and code enforcement officials Thursday to continue studying how to reduce the growing flock in the cityís historic heart, but no action was taken to remove the popular fowl.

Roosters are the target of sleep-deprived Ybor City residents and council Chairman Frank Reddick, who sought a way to reduce the nighttime cacophony and the chicken population in one fell swoop.

But first things first: How do you catch them?

Theyíre elusive, noted Tampa Neighborhood Enhancement manager Sal Ruggiero.

Reddick said he knew of farmers who can attract them with a special call.

"Those who raise roosters, know how to attract roosters to make rooster come to them. I donít want to make that sound here."

"Oh, why not," replied council member Harry Cohen, who is running for mayor. "Youíve done everything else."

Most of the seven council members, in fact, weighed in on the issue. Charlie Miranda offered to show people how to catch roosters by hand. Cohen pondered rooster birth control.

And more than a dozen speakers implored the council at its Thursday meeting either to leave the chickens alone or to do something about them.

Some people said theyíve fallen in love with the chickens who roam Ybor Cityís historic streets, calling them a historic treasure and tourist draw.

Others complained they canít sleep with roosters crowing all night. They said the flock is growing out of control, describing them as an infestation like rodents or bugs and seeking help in getting them out.

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The discussion arose from a request last month by Reddick and Cohen for a report on how to curb the chicken population.

Reddick said May 17 that the chickens, especially roosters, are becoming a nuisance. Cohen, who is running for mayor, had suggested reconsidering the roostersí protected status.

City attorneys said an ordinance protecting birds could be amended to exempt roosters, but council members should be wary of unintended consequences. Code enforcement officials said trappers want $15,000 to trap some birds and remove them to farms.

A recent survey counted 89 roosters in the vicinity of Ybor Cityís Centennial Park.

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"If it were an infestation of any other type of animal, the city would be out there immediately," said Tony LaCrolla, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.

Tom George, who owns the Crow Bar, 1812 N. 17th St, said the chickens are the first thing out-of-town patrons ask about. They are good for Yborís tourism, he said.

"I donít think weíre in the midst of any chicken or rooster revolution," George said.

The chickens are part of the historic neighborhoodís fabric, some speakers said. Reducing the population would be a blow to that history.

"Itís a tremendous asset for our Tampa Bay region as a whole," said Roberto Torres, who owns the Blind Tiger Cafe, 1901 E. 7th St.

Yvonne Yolie Capin, who grew up in Ybor City, offered her own historical perspective.

"My grandfather had chicken and geese in his backyard. They were for food. Thatís how chickens came into Ybor. When you talk about Yborís history, thatís how it started.

"We donít eat them now. We eat them from Publix but we donít eat them from the street."

Council member Luis Viera suggested a workshop, but Capin disagreed.

"To have a workshop on this? There are a lot of issues in this city that need a workshop. This is not one of them."

Once pestered by a chicken that dug up his flower beds, soiled his yard, and perched on his roof, Reddick remained undeterred.

"We have to do something," he said.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected]

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