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A driver rolls his window down and asks Vincent Acierno, "Is this the street where they have the cock fights?"
He is joking, but Acierno is beginning to lose his sense of humor after several sleepless weeks. "My friends are calling me 'the chicken man,'" Acierno said.
The Coco Wood Lakes neighborhood west of Delray Beach has three roosters that crow every morning about 4 a.m. Even through closed windows, Acierno and other residents of this middle-class neighborhood of single-family homes can hear the crowing, a territorial call.
Though no one is quite sure where the chickens — there are also three hens — came from, neighbors said they first appeared about a year ago as chicks and might have been impulse buys from the county fair. The little flock was apparently left behind when a family moved out of its house across the street from Acierno. Since then, the six fowl declared themselves free-range and can be found pecking at the ground all over a two-block area.
Judy Childers used to find them waiting at her door in the morning, but they will not approach her anymore, even when she offers bits of bread. The chickens fly up and over a 6-foot fence to escape.
Childers collected eight eggs from her yard before the chickens moved.
Farm animals, including chickens, are prohibited in residential areas of Palm Beach County. County code enforcement officers have documented the problem, but did not remove the chickens. Since the owners apparently flew the coop, there is no one to hold responsible for the animals.
"Animal control said, 'Chickens? What are you talking about?' They laughed," said Acierno, who started calling about two months ago.
Other residents were advised to hire an animal trapper, who quoted a price of $75 per chicken.
So the three glossy, red-headed roosters and their lady friends amble from one yard to another, while residents toss and turn.
Some of the neighbors have suggested pellet guns or poison. But Acierno and Childers are dead-set against drastic measures. They would much rather that somebody finds the chickens a good coop.
Dave Hasz of Critter Control will send out a trapper for a standard service-visit fee of $189.99, plus $69 per chicken caught. That's the same price he would charge for raccoons or other nuisance animals.
If the price seems high, that's because it may take a trapper several visits to be successful.
"People laugh at us, but it's not that easy to catch a chicken," Hasz said.
Hasz's advice? Buy a bag of corn and get the chickens' guard down, then catch them.
Credits: By Lona O'Connor - Palm Beach Post News