Bastrop’s Historic Chickens: Are They REALLY Feral?

Bastrop, Texas protects its chickens. Homeless chickens–and, I presume, chickens who have a place to hang their hats–are allowed to cross Farm Street with impunity, and to hang about in yards there.

In February 2015, the Bastrop City Council proclaimed Farm Street a Historic Chicken Sanctuary.

“a cock and a hen roosting together” by Andrei Niemimäki licensed under CC BY-SA-2.0

The proclamation covers only part of town, however. Outside the protected area, chickens depend on the kindness of strangers.

One citizen, and perhaps more, think the Council’s action should be reconsidered.

The resulting controversy has put Bastrop chickens on the national map.

The Wall Street Journal calls them “feral chickens,” but that’s such a negative term. All chickens are feral. They’re just either inside the fence or outside it.

Feral hogs are feral. Chickens are just chickens.

In 2009, after a complaint against a chicken was filed, a group of residents addressed the City Council about protecting chickens that congregated in streets and yards. That request initiated the movement to preserve chickens.

But some residents still aren’t happy about the roving fowl. One says it’s a health issue because they leave waste on people’s property. The mayor said they leave poo on the sidewalks. He might have said poop, but I think it was poo.

On the other hand, some say the poo helps their yards and gardens.

My parents raised chickens when I was a small child, so I know what’s possible/probable, and I don’t doubt either of the claims.

Others–or maybe the same ones concerned about the poo–complain that roosters crow all night and wake their children.

I say a rooster that crows all night needs a house. Build them some nice little houses–one for each rooster; don’t put them all in together–and shoo them inside every evening. Provide adequate ventilation, but don’t let in any light. Properly constructed little houses lower the chances of nocturnal crowing. Don’t forget to let them out in the morning.

With all those streetlights shining in their faces, roosters can’t be blamed for crowing all night.

Residents outside the protected area would have to build their own houses, but that’s a small price to keep children sleeping. As my mother used to say, “Never wake a sleeping baby.” By baby, I think she meant anyone under the age of, say, six.

I should mention that shooing roosters requires several shooers, heavy gloves, and possibly a net. No matter the temptation, rooster-catchers, even outside the Sanctuary, must be careful not to harm the roosters. Harm a rooster and it will harm you back, big time.

I’ll also mention that children who wander into a rooster’s territory could be at risk. Geese will snap and bite, toothlessly, but roosters will spur, and the result might not be pretty.

[Correction: Geese have teeth, and so do ducks, and they use them for biting. For more information, see Kaye George’s comment, below. Kaye has scars from an encounter with a duck.]

By the way, if “all night” means 5:00 a.m., get over it. That’s daytime. Roosters can’t be held responsible for following the dictates of their circadian rhythms.

To be fair, I have to say that all roosters are not created equal. For example, my fourth-grade friend, Sarita Morgan, had a citified pet rooster living peaceably in the back yard. One day when I was visiting, she let the rooster hop onto her forearm and carried it into the living room to show her mother’s bridge ladies, of whom my mother was one. A surprised Mrs. Morgan said, “Sarita, get that rooster out of here before he spurs somebody.” The other ladies smiled. My mother, even knowing about the spurs, thought it all very cute.

Sarita and I took the rooster back to his normal habitat. He behaved like a gentleman throughout and looked like he’d have enjoyed staying longer at the bridge game. He’d never seen one.

That was a Del Rio rooster. One Bastrop rooster, Mr. McGillicuddy, who lived outside the Sanctuary, proved such a problem that the major and his neighbors formed a posse. They caught Mr. McGillicuddy with a net and gave him a ride out to a rural area and let him go.

Relocation seems a little extreme. I hope Mr. McGillicuddy wandered into the yard of a farmer or a non-agrarian chicken lover and now has a home where his talents are appreciated.

People on Farm Street, most of them anyway, like the chickens and defend their right to live there and do what they want. They say chickens are a historic part of the town, which, let’s face it, was rural until the recent mass migration to Texas from everywhere else.

One Bastropite said, “I don’t know anyone who lives here that considers them a problem. When I heard about the historical status and protection, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s great.'”

Another said, “The chickens roost right here in this tree next to my house. I welcome them.”

Chickens roosting in trees add ambiance.

City Council member Kay McAnally, who has “coordinated the efforts with residents to protect the chickens,” said, “Our tradition of wild chickens on Farm Street is a quaint and charming facet of Bastrop culture and part of what makes Bastrop the unique community it is.”

So there it is. As a pseudo-journalist, I shouldn’t take sides. But this post has l lot of opinion woven in, so it could be considered an op-ed.

In that case, I’m for the chickens.

Even though chickens can wreak havoc on a lawn, my parents allowed my pet chicken the run of the back yard, and the grass stayed lush and green.

Her name was Dickie. My mother liked her more than I did, really. They visited through the screen door every morning while Mother worked in the kitchen, and when Dickie left poo on the porch, which was always, Mother just hosed it off.

Dickie had a certain measure of notoriety in the neighborhood for trying to hatch a cardboard box of charcoal briquettes she found in the garage. When she refused to stop setting, Mother bought a half-dozen chicks, but, when introduced, Dickie let it be known it was the briquettes or nothing.

So we ended up with six baby chicks living in the kitchen closet beside the water heater. My father had to throw out the briquettes so the would-be mother wouldn’t set herself to death. He didn’t like to barbecue anyway.

Just one of the myriad dramas that have dotted  my life.

But back to the Bastrop chickens. The national media may forget about them, but the story of the city’s Historic Chicken Sanctuary isn’t over till it’s over.

The City Council has agreed to put up Slow Chicken Crossing banners on one section of Farm Street. Chickens aren’t necessarily slow–some run fast–but they’re incredibly indecisive.

In April the mayor asked the Council Member/Chicken Coordinator to be part of discussions between complainant and chickens.

I think having the Chicken Coordinator involved is a wise move. On the other hand, some people might think the mayor is being chicken.


In writing this story, I relied heavily on the interview with Bastrop’s mayor I heard on NPR this morning, and I used an article about the chickens carried by the online Statesman to check facts and add detail not aired in the radio interview. Any errors are either mine, NPR’s, or The Bastrop Advertiser’s. Anything that looks like plagiarism isn’t, and if it’s pointed out, I’ll change it. I’m sensitive about that.

I made up Slow Chicken Crossing myself. I don’t know what the real banners will say.


The articles listed below are suggested by an online app (extension? I don’t know about those things). It’s supposed to read what I wrote and bring up related material. Today’s results surprise me, because there’s nothing about chickens. There’s something about the Pope, about Volkswagen, about Scott Walker, and about the Apple Car.

There’s also something headed “Donald Trump: Enough With Nice!'” Now I’m wondering how Donald Trump and nice made it into the same sentence. It looks like he said nice, and that prospect makes me wonder who in his milieu is allegedly being nice. Donald himself is behaving like a boy bimbo. That’s not nice.



6 thoughts on “Bastrop’s Historic Chickens: Are They REALLY Feral?

    1. You’re right, and I intended to mention that. There are probably people outside this area who still think we’re in a terrible pickle down here, trying to fend off a marauding infantry. And now some citizens think they’re being invaded by chickens. 🙂 Thanks for your comment.


  1. Hilarious! I won’t take sides in the Chicken War, at least not here, but I will correct one thing. Not to downplay the damage that roosters can do, but geese do have teeth. I’ve been bitten by both geese and ducks. Ducks have them at the end of the bill (not really teeth, but I have a scar to attest to how sharp they are), and geese have them on their tongues.


    1. Oh no! Not goose teeth! I’ll correct that immediately. It used to be fun to have lunch at the Aquarena Springs Restaurant on Sundays, when families visited. You could eat catfish and look out on the lawn and watch the toddlers chase the geese, then watch the geese turn around and chase the toddlers.


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