Oviedo is famous for its free-range chickens. Because enough citizens complained to City Hall about not seeing as many of the birds roaming the streets as they had in the past, the mayor actually ordered an investigation.
Fire Chief Lars White says they found many reasons for the diminished chicken population, including a few that have been hit by cars.
"We talked to some of the local tenants," he said. "Some of those that used to feed the chickens have stopped doing so. They also informed us that they think there is some wildlife activity that is interfering with the reproduction cycle."
But Chief White only investigated areas where the chickens were known to inhabit. Leigh Ann Tepper owns the Townhouse Restaurant in the heart of downtown Oviedo. She doesn't believe in a large decline in the city's chicken population.
"I see that they are in different places than they were 6 months ago, but that could change in a couple of months."
Tepper says the chickens are an important part of Oviedo's character.
"They're essential to my happiness in Oviedo. Actually, that was the whole reason I bought this restaurant and moved here. I came by. We came and were looking to buy a restaurant and I saw this place had chickens, and I was like 'Sold!'"
Armed with information that the chickens may have simply moved, we went on a chicken hunt. After only seeing two outside the Townhouse Restaurant, we found several more behind the Vine Clothing Store, another at the Lawton House, and then the jackpot, nearly 20 clucking and pecking around off Reed Avenue a mile east of downtown. Chief White was never too worried.
"They're still here," said White. "I think the chickens will survive just fine."
Just remember to brake for chickens in Oviedo. During our search for the dwindling chicken population, we literally watched one walk into the center of State Road 434 in downtown, then stand on one leg.