Two sides to this feathered story - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Two sides to this feathered story

May 21, 2004

Fitzgerald- Hundreds of wild chickens running afoul with some residents. Some folks feel the birds are out of control, while supporters say the colorful birds are a city treasure.

When finding the answer to the question: Why did the chicken cross the road? You may want to travel to Fitzgerald, where chickens are everywhere.

"I saw chickens running around," said resident Jan Gelders. "I was saying why are there chickens running around in this town, but I soon got educated!" Gelders says she got educated about the Red Jungle Fowl that have been roaming freely in Fitzgerald for over 35 years.

The birds are native to India and were part of a failed attempt to introduce them to surrounding areas as game birds. But the birds had other plans and would eventually make their home in Fitzgerald and into the hearts of bird lovers like Gelders. "They are just very unusual and they are very unique to Fitzgerald, and that's why they need to be protected,"

But not everyone we talked to is crazy about these birds. Some say they have had it up to here with those birds. "I think they need to be gone, put them somewhere else," says Ross, who thinks the hundreds of birds roaming the streets are a nuisance. "You can't rake your yard without them getting in and scattering the trash. Every morning when I get up, there is a pile of them on my porch leaving their droppings, and you are giving up there are crowd of them in the road and you have to stop for them"

Now Gelders and other bird supporters want to put an end to the debate. They are circulating petitions to protect the birds by having them adopted as the town's official bird. "No one can speak for the whole community. Citizens have to speak for them selves and the birds have to be spoken for. We are the voice for the birds," says Gelders. And she hopes other citizens will join her to support what she calls the most unusual bird phenomena in the country.

The City Council is set to hear the debate over the chickens at their next city council meeting June 14th.

posted at 4:00PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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