Many of the chickens are the poultry equivalent of gang members, tough birds descended from gamecocks. Some humans don't much care for their aggressive ways. The birds are probably not too crazy about the aggressive human ways either. Chickens are hit by cars and sometimes shot with darts. Sheehan (who even if she changed the "ee" to an "i" wouldn't necessarily be related to me) told me that the store takes in wounded chickens and nurses them back to health, which was touching and not at all humorous, which made making fun of the situation extremely difficult, so I broke off the interview.

Personally, I can see both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I greatly enjoy a good bowl of chicken soup. On the other, who doesn't like spending time in a nice chicken park?

Actually, loath as I am to present the facts, I should point out that the assistant city manager doesn't really want to make the chickens into soup. I called him (it was an exhaustingly intrepid day, what with all this digging deeper) and he told me he wants just to round them up, put them in an aviary over by the jail, then send them to digs up the coast run by an environmental group. "What we'd do," he said, "is literally take them to jail, crate them up, and deport them to St. Petersburg." Apparently, he talked about making chicken soup because Key West must uphold its reputation for colorful characters.

In any event, until something is done, the question travelers must confront is whether Key West is safe to visit. I checked the travel warning section of the U.S. State Department Web site and found 26 countries, including such perennials as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and a couple of places with names so unpronounceable I think a bored bureaucrat probably made them up. But there was no mention of Key West.

The danger in Key West is real, however, and not just related to attacking chickens. It also involves kayaks.