Reports continue to spring up that the trademark Oviedo chickens that strut about the historic downtown are going missing, leaving residents wondering if the population is disappearing.
“We’ve received inquiries of what appears to be a decline in the population of wild chickens running around in downtown Oviedo,” said Mayor Dominic Persampiere. “Some people have mistakenly been assuming that the city is removing the chickens, which we are not.”
To solve this mystery, Fire Chief Lars White spoke with locals to get a better understanding of why the chickens may be missing.
What he found was a combination of reasons.
“There used to merchants who would feed them, which would help keep them downtown, who are no longer feeding them,” Persampiere said. “There are other merchants who have seen the eggs disappearing. This is something that is just happening naturally, unfortunately.”
“Folks just have to keep an eye on it. If they see somebody messing with the eggs, or messing with the chickens, let the police department or somebody know and we’ll see what we can do to address it.”
Persampiere said that Ace Hardware reportedly hasn’t fed the chickens in six or eight months, causing the chickens that once flocked to the adjacent parking lot to go elsewhere.
Mad Hatter’s Pizza owner Vjollca Cekani used to see up to 20 chickens behind her restaurant located on Broadway Street two years ago, but now only sees two or three at a time.
The Oviedo local believes that natural causes are to blame for the shortage of chickens.
“I think the hawks are eating the babies, that’s why they’re disappearing,” said Cekani, whose husband witnessed it firsthand.
“It’s a shame, but what can you do? ... You can’t control that.”
Left unaddressed was the recent spate of coyote sightings in Central Florida. Coyotes tend to attack smaller animals, confirmed by reports of coyotes being sighted in areas with recently missing pets in Windermere and suburban Seminole County. They also can go after chickens, according to local organic farmer Tom Carey, who raises chickens for eggs.
“Everything goes after chickens,” he said, from wild cats to raccoons to coyotes. He said that he hadn’t seen any coyotes near his home, which is near the Econlockhatchee River in Oviedo.
Leigh-Ann Tepper, owner of the Oviedo Townhouse Restaurant across the street, didn’t see the missing chickens as anything unusual.
“Chickens are sort of seasonal, you have babies at this time and you have babies at that time,” said Tepper, who owned a few pet chickens of her own growing up. “… I still see plenty of chickens, it just depends on where you’re looking and the time of the day.”
The mystery continues, but in the meantime the chickens are missed, Persampiere said.
“The chickens are part of Oviedo; they’re part of the charm of the city,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate.”