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Young hen lays her claim to downtown St. Petersburg neighborhood

This Rhode Island Red hen is the unofficial neighborhood pet for the area between Signature Place and the Northern Trust Bank building.

Photo by ELIZABETH COOPER

This Rhode Island Red hen is the unofficial neighborhood pet for the area between Signature Place and the Northern Trust Bank building.

ST. PETERSBURG

The downtown renaissance has a new mascot that has been roaming the corridors near the construction site of a multimillion dollar development project.

The young Rhode Island Red hen has been providing fodder for construction workers and tenants alike as she rules the roost between the Signature Place site on Second Avenue S between First and Second streets and the Northern Trust Bank building.

She has gained many friends, and has been unofficially adopted by both buildings as a "neighborhood pet."

Tenants of Signature Place see the chicken at the site almost daily and say the "friendly fowl" has been laying eggs throughout the building.

Rick McCollum, Festival of States executive director, has seen her many times.

McCollum's most recent sighting was around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday as he was walking to the Northern Trust building. The bird was standing near the entrance to the building, but ran into a nearby flower bed as he approached.

"It's starting to remind me of Key West," McCollum said. "So, actually, it's kind of funny."

There are about 2,000 to 3,000 feral chickens roaming the streets of Key West, camping out in back yards and lolling about in restaurants. While protected by local law, the situation is not without controversy. Some people believe they are a nuisance and others feel they should be protected. The city even hired a chicken catcher to try to round them up.

It is unclear if the gypsy chicken of St. Petersburg has sparked much controversy.

"I don't know that anyone's thought about that," McCollum said. "The chicken's not really bothering anyone, and it seems to be happy.

"As fast as it runs, it probably wouldn't be that easy to catch," he said with a laugh.

"I love the chicken," said Mary Smelser, receptionist at Mahaffey Apartment Corp. "She's a pretty chicken, really is a pretty chicken. I worry about her."

The chicken spends most of her day walking between both buildings. Smelser joked that she wanted to put up a chicken-crossing sign because "I'm so afraid she's going to get hurt."

Smelser said she worries about the bird when it gets cold or whether she's being fed.

Finding food, however, is not a problem.

Lola Walter, another Mahaffey employee, actually saw her eat some pizza that was left by one of the construction workers.

Bill Clark, building engineer for the Northern Trust Bank building, takes it upon himself to feed the chicken. Every morning, he said, he provides her with some cat food. If he forgets, he said, she'll pull the mulch out of the flower beds or she'll eat the impatiens. "We just planted those," he said as he watched the hen munch on a few petals. "I'll have to give her more food."

As to where the chicken goes at night, Clark can only guess. "We have a couple of rogue cats around here, so she doesn't really sleep over here at night," he said.

The chicken "does not reside on the Signature Place job site," said Kevin P. Bowen, senior vice president at Bovis Lend Lease in Tampa.

Originally, Bowen said, there were several chickens found at the construction equipment site, which is about five blocks from the project. Once they were discovered, they were taken home, unharmed, by a worker who owns a farm, he said.

So, what will happen to this friendly little fowl?

She will probably be safely removed from the job site and taken to the same farm as the others, Bowen said.

Young hen lays her claim to downtown St. Petersburg neighborhood 02/10/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:25am]
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