These days it’s hard to tell which are louder at the Highlands County Animal Control shelter: the dogs or the roosters.
The county facility on Haywood Taylor Boulevard has been home to a variety of impounded and abandoned critters.
Now, a little more than 100 hens, roosters and chickens share space with the other animals, and it’s not hard to see that some of the papa birds like the world to know they are there.
Tuesday, an auction to sell some of these free-ranging critters, which were trapped in Lake Placid’s Highway Park, turned out to be a non-event.
Nobody showed up, surprising Animal Control Director Darryl Scott, who fielded several calls from interested people, whom he was expecting to bid.
The county’s only option is to prepare a date for its next auction – which is the only way it can get rid of the livestock and recoup some of its money – but more chickens need to be trapped in the Lake Placid community, which is apparently over-run by them.
Highway Park resident Tiffany Green said the chickens have always been around. She’s lived there for a year so she doesn’t know how long they have been roaming around.
But no one has claimed them, and the problem has gotten so bad that residents had to appeal to the county for help.
Scott conjectures they started off as somebody’s pets and then were let loose; they multiplied and have become a neighborhood nuisance.
They tear up people’s gardens and flower beds, Green said, eating up the tomatoes.
“People get tired of chickens pooping on their cars, their front yards,” Scott said.
Over the last few days Animal Control Officer Steve Sphaler has been doing chicken duty in Highway Park, trapping them in the two big live traps set up there.
Sphaler’s job is to bring back the captured hens and roosters, and they are put in several small pens and a bigger puppy exercise cage.
They are fed once or twice a day and animal control workers make sure to take away the eggs so their numbers don’t multiply, but they are running out of room to house more of them.
Sphaler estimates he caught about a 120 of them over a 10-day period, but hundreds others are still free.
He feels it’s possible to trap them, but it’s going to take time, he added.
In the last few weeks, Sphaler, who has never encountered so many chickens in a public place, has honed his chicken trapping skills.
While some are easy to trap, others are not.
One brood of a mama hen and her “bitties” made him earn his pay because the little chickens were small enough to sneak out of the wired cage. He had to pad the bottom so the escape artists would stay in.
“It took two days to catch them,” he grinned, as the family, now in captivity, loudly squawked away.