Centennial Park is a city park like many others: it has statues, benches, pedestrians, and skateboarders. But one group of guests is somewhat unique: the famed chickens of Ybor City. The close proximity of the trolley stop makes for a great location to stop and watch whole broods flock about as if Ybor City were their home and we were all just guests. The signs nearby – warning visitors not to feed or molest the chickens – suggests that the chickens might be right.
In the early days of Ybor City, livestock would have been extraordinarily common. Ybor City did not have grocery stores with refrigerated meats and dairy, so owning livestock was commonplace. By the middle of the twentieth century, however, urban livestock – even chickens – was far less common than it once was.
Still, the little birds number enough to warrant concern from residents, which led to the city of Tampa adopting an ordinance deeming it “unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, maim or trap” any birds within city limits, thus protecting the chickens in Ybor City.
In order to deal with the obvious sanitation problems of having loose chickens running about a historic district, the Ybor Chicken Society was formed in 2013 by Dylan Breese. It consists solely of volunteers who spend Saturdays cleaning up the streets of Ybor while enjoying the cute and curious chickens.
The houses and cigar factories that used to be here are mostly gone, just like the occupants who gave life to the lifeless things that surrounded this humid, swampy place more than a century ago. That is why the roosters and hens are so crucial to this historical place -- because they have been here since the start and will likely stay till the end of Ybor City.