Want to know the history behind the Key deer, Key West chickens & iguanas? Check this out to know the history, when, and where to see these land Key animals.

The well-known wildlife in Key West is roosters and hens, but these chickens aren’t native. Again, small and green iguanas roaming freely aren’t native as well. So what is the history behind the Key deer, Key West chickens & iguanas? Where did they come from in Florida?

The least seen species among these three Key West wildlife are the key deer. Key deer came to Key West from South America, chickens from Cuba, and iguanas from Central and South America. In the following discussion, we’ll share when and where you can see these animals, including the elaborated history of their arrival to Key West.

History Behind The Key Deer, Key West Chickens & Iguanas

If you visit Key West in Florida, you can see many unique oceans, air, and land wildlife. Here we’ll talk about the history of three unique wildlife on the land of Key West.

  1. History Of Key Deer

If you drive through Big Pine Key in Florida, you’ll surely see a warning to drive slow and keep your eyes open for Key Deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium). These deer in Florida are a small subspecies of the Virginia White-Tailed Deer. The most attractive feature of these deer is their size. They are known as the smallest deer throughout North America. An adult male Key deer is slightly taller than the female species. 

Female Key deer are 24 to 28 inches at the shoulder, whereas male deer are 26 to 32 inches. However, depending on the deer’s health, the minimum weight of this species may vary, but their average weight is 80 pounds. In contrast, a newborn Key deer weighs between 2 to 4 pounds.

However, Florida’s Key deer species were categorized as endangered species in 1967. Only 27 Key West deer were left there in 1957. About 8542 acres around No Name Key and Big Pine Key were registered as the home of these endangered species in 1957, under the name of Key Deer National Refuge. Due to rapid development and poaching, the number of their habitat has decreased. Another big threat to their extinction is the car. In February 2020, cars killed nearly 113 deer within 9 months in Big Pine Key during a reduced speed limit.

However, in 2019, the Trump administration requested the removal of Key deer from the endangered species list due to their population growth, but no action has yet been taken.

When To See Key Deer?

You can meet Key deer throughout the years. South Florida is usually very hot in the summer months, so you can expect to see Key deer fawns in May and June. Winter is the perfect time for Key West deer; sunny, warm, and bug-free. January is the best time to visit fully grown antlers Key deer, especially if you’re a wildlife photographer.

Where To See Key Deer In Florida?

Here are some popular places to visit in Key West to see Key deer:


11 March is observed as the national Key deer awareness day in Key West, Florida. Key deer were the first endangered species to be protected by the law of the U.S Endangered Species Act in 1973. To celebrate this day, people are asked to read up on deer, share their knowledge, and encourage people to follow the steps to protect deer. 

  1. History Of Key West Chickens

Today’s Key West Street chickens are believed to have immigrated from Cuba. There was a 10-year-long war took place in Cuba in 1860. Due to the war, many people from Cuba migrated to Key West along with a famous sport called cockfighting. Cuban roosters (adult male chickens) are known as aggressive and territorial chickens, which makes them perfect for cockfighting. Soon the sport became popular in Key West. But the game was classified as illegal in 1986

Hence, many people let their roosters go and live freely in the natural. However, before the bridges and railroads were built, early settlers of Key West used to pet chickens for food.  But when Key West got connected with the mainland in 1912, they didn’t need chickens for food anymore; consequently, they released their Key West chickens.

As a result, the Key West Gypsy Chicken is now considered as much a part of the area as the sun, sand, and sea. However, the city commission has voted to ban feeding chickens recently because of the high population of chickens.

When To See Key West Chickens?

Key West people and chickens have a very common and friendly relationship. Hence, roosters and hens can be seen throughout the island each and everyday. 

Where To See Key West Chickens In Florida?

Spotting a Key West chicken is much easier than finding a Key deer. You can see colorful roosters and hens with their tiny chicks crowing and walking in the street and in front of outdoor cafes all over town.


A four-day festival called ChickenFest was organized once in 2005. It was also the time when City Commission declared chickens as official island birds, at least for the festival. Although ChickenFest is no longer happening, some citizens still follow the theme of ChickenFest in Fantasy Fest, which is usually celebrated for 10 days in October since 1979.

  1. History Of Iguanas in Key West

This wildlife is a large species of lizard. They originally came from the Caribbean, South, and Central America. Key West iguanas can be 5ft long in length. Generally, iguanas are cold-blooded species; hence, they thrive best under sunlight. And Key West has the perfect temperature for green iguanas. They have also seen swimming in swimming pools in the Florida Keys.

But how did this animal arrive in Key West?

It’s believed that iguanas came to Key West through the fruit ships that sailed from Central and South America in the 1960s and 1970s. But the number of iguanas exploded into innumerable invasive iguanas eventually. They eat fruits and flowers and are harmless and friendly to humans.

When To See Key West Iguanas?

If you’re lucky, then you may see iguanas in usual places during winter too. They usually get frozen at low temperatures. However, iguanas prefer sunny and hot weather, so the chances of seeing them are higher during summer.

Where To See Key West Iguanas In Florida?

Iguanas in Key West are very popular and can be seen all over the island. Here are some best places to see iguanas:

Wrap Up

Now you know the history behind the Key deer, Key West chickens & iguanas. Plus, you get ideas on when is the best time and where is the best place to see them from the above discussion. Ensure you learn about the rules of meeting these animals as a visitor. For example, you can’t feed Key deer, can’t bring dogs around them, etc. Hope all the included information above was helpful to you.

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