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.
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. Key West roosters are the descendants of roosters that were bred in Cuba and the Keys for fighting. For centuries a winning cock fight rooster was as a source of income and bragging rights. Cock fights 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. No wonder there is a waiting list from chicken farms all over the United States to adopt Key West roosters.