Bastrop Animal Control cracking down on wild chicken population

It has almost been one year since Bastrop city leaders voted to put an end to the Farm Street Chicken Sanctuary, but rounding up the wild birds has been difficult, to say the least. 

Now, animal control officers are turning to stricter enforcement policies.

The City of Bastrop designated Farm Street a chicken sanctuary in 2009 and allowed the birds to roam free there, but it wasn't enclosed.  

“Chickens can't read, so they didn't know when they left the sanctuary or when they didn’t and, so, that was part of the problem of the spread of the flock,” said Bastrop Police Chief James Altgelt.  

Once the chickens crossed the road, they ruffled some feathers in nearby neighborhoods. 

“I hear them at night, about 4:30 in the morning one calls and three or four will answer like a chorus, and call and response, and it's like, ‘Oh, chickens, cool, and roll over and go back to sleep,’” said Patti Sanders who grew up in Bastrop before moving to Navarro County.  

“I can understand that it affects some businesses and I know my mom had a neighbor that moved because she couldn't tolerate it,” Sanders added.  

In May, the City Council voted to remove the sanctuary and round up all the wild hens and roosters. Animal control officers took a crack at it, setting up traps in popular chicken hangouts around town. 

“Chickens, contrary to popular belief, aren't dumb,” said Altgelt. "They've become very skittish. When they see you, they take off, so it becomes very problematic."

It was almost like the chickens and their supporters hatched their own plan to stick around. 

“We have people that are just as deeply passionate to keep the chickens as they are to have them removed,” Altgelt said.  

City Council has encouraged Bastrop police to ticket anyone caught feeding or harboring wild chickens, but currently, to cite someone, officers must collect three days’ worth of evidence. That’s something the police chief said will likely be scratched from the ordinance when council meets again. 

As for those who don't allow officers on their property to catch a wild chicken, there’s a plan in place for that too.  

“We also have the right to obtain an administrative warrant, because they are in violation of being free ranging on their property,” said Altgelt. 'And if that's what we have to do to help eradicate the population, then we're definitely prepared to do that and will do that."

While there's still a ways to go, Bastrop Animal Control has already captured almost 200 chickens. Meaning, in the future, there will be a lot less chickens in Bastrop city limits. 

“I'd miss them, but I get my chickens at home,” Sanders said. 

The captured chickens are being adopted out to people outside city limits and Altgelt said there are checks in place to make sure they are being treated humanely. 

Anyone who wishes to adopt one of the birds can contact the police department to be added to the list.