Arriving in stealth and by means unknown, a clutch of at least eight chickens took up roost in Langley last week and, in short order, have become the talk of the town.
Indeed, capturing the attention of city residents with a speed presidential candidates could only dream of, people everywhere, from coffee shops and bank lines to social media pages and city hall, are clucking about Langley’s newest and noisiest residents.
“Everybody seems to know about them,” laughed Betty Freeman, who helps run the Langley Chamber of Commerce’s visitor center on Anthes Avenue. “And no one seems to know where they came from.”
The birds, all full-grown adults, showed up early Sunday, uninvited and announced, in the parking lot of US Bank next to the visitor center. They weren’t causing any trouble, said Freeman, it was just odd.
“I opened my car door and they were cock-a-doodle-doing right there,” she recalled.
“They’re quite beautiful.”
Organizers initially thought that they’d been pranked, as the chickens arrived on the last day of Mystery Weekend, the theme of which revolved around Langley’s famous and abundant rabbit population. But if it was a joke, no one has come forward or, as of Friday, reclaimed the lost flock.
According to Mayor Tim Callison, however, their days are numbered. City code lists chickens and roosters as nuisance animals and prohibits them within city limits, he said.
“These are all crowing at 4:30 a.m. in the morning,” Callison said.
“We’ll try to deal with the chickens.”
Yet “try” may be the operative word. While no one has claimed the chickens as their own, several have attempted to round them up. An Oak Harbor chicken farmer who learned about them on online gave it his best shot Thursday with a large salmon net. He was not successful.
It’s unlikely that anyone else will be either, said Brandon Turner, manager of US Bank in Langley.
“They’re fast,” he said, with a chuckle. “There’s no way you’re going to catch those things.”
The crew at US Bank have been watching the birds, and peoples’ attempts capture them, with a degree of mild amusement most of the week. Aside from the salmon net, most of the efforts have been those of children, they said, though there was a separate report of a team of people wielding something resembling a tennis court net late Thursday evening.
The problem is the birds are masters of breaking ranks. Like a football team after the ball is hiked, the pack breaks apart and scatters with any serious attempt at plucking them up.
For the chicken’s part, the problem poultry have largely behaved themselves, minding their own business and leaving customers alone, Turner said. He was initially worried they might be aggressive, as chickens can be territorial.
Though in plain sight, details about their ranks are unclear. While some say they’re all roosters, others swear there are hens in the mix. Even their numbers are a bit of mystery. While some have reported seeing as many as 10, bank Teller Signe Cvar strongly disputes the claim. She has a clear view of them from her window and has become the bank’s recognized chicken authority.
“No, it’s less than that. They usually travel in a pack of eight or a pack of five,” she said. “They may be rival gangs, we don’t know for sure.”
Others in the business community are less amused. Callahan McVay, of Callahan’s Firehouse Studio, said at least rabbits don’t poop on the porch or crow at 4 a.m. He also worried that people may soon get the wrong idea, that Langley’s tolerance for wildlife will be confused as a green light to dump unwanted animals.
Fred Lundahl, owner of Music for the Eyes, didn’t weigh in on their potential impact to Langley commerce, but did suggest the post office parking lot as one possible place for relocation. The jest was in reference to another controversy in Langley this week (see story on page 5 for details).
As for the public, few appear to be raising a fuss. Some say they’re lovely, and that they add to Langley’s ever increasing animal rich reputation — whales, rabbits and now barnyard chickens.
“Living here is so fun,” said Cindy Mason, who stopped to take a picture of the chickens crossing the road.
Mason relocated to Langley from Los Angeles, Calif., 25 years ago and has “never looked back.”
Yet others, such as Freeman, say that while the birds are striking she can’t help but wonder what might be next.
“Bunnies and chickens, next thing it will be ducks,” she said.
But, then again maybe that’s just Langley.
“Of course we have chickens, why not,” Freeman said.