Some places have pigeons -- in Tampa Bay's historic Ybor City neighborhood, they have chickens. Step off the TECO Historic Streetcar near Centennial Plaza in the midst of the urban jungle, and the next sound you'll hear will be the enthusiastic crowing of a rooster draped in golden feathers. Ybor City's chickens are descended from the original backyard birds kept by Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants more than a century ago. They scratch under the bushes, strut the sidewalks, and cross the roads whenever they feel like it. While the chickens are protected by city ordinance, Since moving to Tampa Bay from Ohio in 2005, Ybor City resident and IT guy Dylan Breese has become the cock of the walk, building a community of people who care for and keep watch over Ybor City's chickens. Yes, they have their own Instagram page.
What's your job with the Ybor Chicken Society? I'm the head rooster.
Tell me about your job. As President of the YCS, I try to promote harmony between the chickens and the community. Part of that is looking after the birds and introducing them to the community via social media. The other part is supporting and uplifting Ybor City, itself. We promote businesses, clean several up (including the park), and we try to help some of the people in town who are going through hard times.
What do you like about about your job? I'm outdoors, talking to people everyday. Most are tourists - and they are just fascinated with our chickens. When they ask about them, I get to talk about Ybor's history and culture and it makes me proud to call this little corner of Tampa home.
How would your life be different without tourism? Tourism brings one of the more enjoyable aspects of my job to life. The conversations are rarely one-way, meaning I get to learn about the visitors and where they're from also. Plus, when someone visits and writes up a piece about Ybor, I absolutely love when I get to read about their experiences with our chickens.
Who’s your hero and why? David and Daphne Sheldrick of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They started elephant conservation efforts in the 1970's in Nairobi and have grown an organization that is a huge inspiration to me.
What do you do for fun or hobby? I work 3 jobs, so hobbies are hard to participate in these days. I do love getting around Ybor, though. I enjoy trail riding in Tampa parks, also.
What’s something people don’t know about your job with YCS? It's an emotional roller coaster. Nature can be very cruel, and often is, so I see things happen to sweet animals that are beyond my control. On the flip side, I watch hens hatch their first babies, see chickens recover from injury or illness, and it's heartwarming when they notice and run to me.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on the job? I see roosters chase squirrels and trip all the time. There's one - Frankenstein - who, upon hearing people laugh, will make a laughing sound right along with you. It's hilarious.
What do you recommend your visitors do for fun when they come to Tampa Bay? Everything. There's something for everyone here. Start in Ybor, experience all it has, and take the street car downtown. Visit our parks - we have so many wonderful ones. Beaches, sun, food. We have it all.