The chickens apparently got the message.
In October, acting on a series of complaints, the Dade City Commission decided to crack down on chickens that roamed freely within the city limits. Since then, though, the complaints have dried up and the Dade City Code Enforcement staff hasn't trapped a single chicken.
"There are a lot less chickens," said Bobby Cobelli, code enforcer. "I don't know if people are catching them on their own, but there is definitely a decrease."
Before the city commission acted, chickens enjoyed a poultry version of diplomatic immunity under Dade City's bird sanctuary ordinance, which had been in effect since 1996.
That ordinance made it against the law to hunt, shoot, trap, injure or molest any wild bird or wild fowl. Whether intended or not, chickens became a beneficiary of the bird-sanctuary designation, at least until City Hall began to receive enough complaints from residents who viewed the birds as more of a nuisance than beloved creatures in need of protection.
The city commission amended the ordinance to make it clear that the protections didn't extend to hens or roosters. The code enforcement office was prepared to act on complaints and trap the chickens.
At the same time, the commission approved an ordinance that allows residents to raise as many as six hens in their yards under certain restrictions.
So far, the city commission vote alone had the intended effect of cutting down on the roaming chickens.
"I have not caught any chickens," Cobelli said this week. "The situation has taken care of itself."