April 11, 2013

Solving the Mystery of the Chicken Sanctuary

by Angela Castillo

As far as small towns go, Bastrop has plenty of places to boast about.  We have the Bastrop Museum (home to early Texas memorabilia). We have the Old Iron Bridge that has its very own S.O.B.S. (Society of Bridgespitters) club. And who could forget the bird sculpture thing that resides at Ferry Park on Main Street? Yes, we have our fair share of curiosities, but one place that most 'Stropians will suggest when visitors ask for a list of "must-sees" is our hallowed chicken sanctuary on Farm Street. Behind the glamour and modern glitz of the Shulman 8 Theater on Chestnut you will find evidence of a bygone day. A row of older homes reside along Farm Street, most with large fences built to keep in, well, farm animals. Along the street are lovely lamp posts with bright yellow signs that proudly read, "Slow, entering Farm Street Historic Chicken Sanctuary."

Bastrop Chicken Sanctuary on Farm Street
(picture courtesy of Cherie Haines)

If you're lucky, you will see a few of the fortunate birds who call the street home; red roosters with proudly waving tail feathers, momma hens with their tiny brood following after them, and youngsters of unknown gender pecking around trees for bugs and bits of grain.

Julie Campos-Cisneros, a longtime resident of Farm Street, knows a thing or two about the chickens. In fact, it was her father who was responsible for bringing in part of the flock. "The chickens have been here since the 1800's" she said. "But in 1960, my father raised fighting roosters here." Her father had roosters that were famous throughout the United States. After he passed away though, she and her family decided to let the chickens wander free. "They were happier that way," she said. "And we haven’t seen a fire ant since. Crickets don't stand a chance."

She said neighbors work together to feed the chickens and give them a place to lay their eggs. "In fact, they lay eggs in that aquarium." She said, pointing to a glass container filled with hay resting at the back of her porch.

Closer inspection found that there was indeed a brown egg nestled inside...
"We keep all the neighbors in the area supplied with eggs," she said proudly. What kinds of chickens are there? "We have all kinds," she said. "Clarets, Toppers, Round Heads. Lots of people just come by and drop them off. We never know what we’ll have next."

Her face fell when she was asked about predators. "We don’t get many coyotes this close to town," she said. "Sometimes the dog across the street gets a few. The worse problems we have are people."

Apparently, many people drive down the street far too fast, and some of them actually try to hit the chickens. The neighbors on Farm Street have sadly laid hundreds of feathered bodies to rest, the casualties of speeding drivers. 

The neighbors are worried for mommas and babies the most,
 since babies move slower than adult chickens.

For many years the neighbors felt helpless to do more than shake their fists at departing murderous vehicles. Then a member of the Bastrop City Council, Kay Garcias McAnally, approached the council about putting up some protective signs. The city agreed, and the poles and signs were established. When asked if this has helped the situation, Campos-Cisneros said, "Yes, but there are still people driving too fast down the road."

To see more about the Bastrop Historical Chicken Sanctuary, you can watch this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvTOz5Wz-Zo.

Or you can drive down Farm Street to see them yourself. The best times are the early morning, before 10:00 a.m., or after 4:00 p.m. "In the afternoon you won’t see as many," said Campos-Cisneros. "They will be either resting or laying their eggs."

This is just fine for the residents of Farm Street, who like their eggs over easy.


  1. My family and I are new to Bastrop, and upon driving around.. Found this street. So cool to see Chickens out and about.. and even more awesome to know that even though the years have changed.. there is a bit of history preserved. Thank you for a great article.

  2. Now, you are making me want to move to Bastrop!