Wild Chickens Rule the Streets in Some Beach Towns. Here’s Why One Scientist Is Studying Them

This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of Discover magazine as “Where the Wild Things Crow.” Subscribe for more stories like these.


If you’ve ever hit the beaches of Key West, Bermuda or Hawaii looking for a tranquil vacation, you may have experienced a rude awakening. By a rooster, that is.

These tourist-laden seaside towns are full of feral chickens. They roam the graveyards. They strut the beaches. They peck at leftovers beneath busy tables on restaurant patios. Legends about the birds abound, including that one flock arrived on the wings of a Pan Am jet and that some were bred to have extra toes. But are they good for anything besides waking us up?

Eben Gering thinks so. He’s been chasing free-roaming fowl around beaches across the globe for almost a decade. An assistant professor of biology at Nova Southeastern University in south Florida, Gering is convinced that

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