The Mysterious Wild Chickens that Roam Yuba City with Impunity

Photo via chickensofyubacity

If you’ve ever driven through the town of Yuba City along Highway 99 in Northern California, you may have noticed something strange. Located right in the heart of the town, you’ll likely witness a hoard of wild chickens roaming the car-laden streets. No, you aren’t seeing an anomaly. Those chickens have been there for decades.

These chickens are often seen in the parking lot of the IHOP restaurant, at the doorstep of the county visitors center, and even on Franklin Road. Despite their prevalence, the origin of these chickens remains a mystery.

According to Jessica Hougen, the curator of the Sutter Museum, which provides insight into Yuba City history, the origins of the chickens are unclear. While the chickens have become a staple in the city, their presence is not mentioned in historical records.

Hougen notes that there are various theories about the origin of the chickens. Some people believe that they escaped from a farmer’s coop, while others think that they are remnants of an old sale yard. The latter theory suggests that the chickens may have come from a livestock auction yard that was present in the neighborhood in the 1970s.

Today, Yuba City has several poultry-themed restaurants, and some may wonder whether the feral chicken population is related to them. However, Hougen doubts that this is the case. She jokes that the chickens roaming the streets are not the type that people typically eat nowadays.

Despite not knowing the origin of the chickens, Yuba City has embraced them as part of its culture. The city has even painted chicken murals around town. Whether residents love or hate them, the chickens have become a defining feature of Yuba City. In fact, there’s even an Instagram page highlighting their shenanigans around the town.

It’s worth noting that the presence of free-roaming chickens in urban areas is not unique to Yuba City. In cities around the world, including Honolulu and Paris, feral chicken populations exist. Often, these chickens are the descendants of birds that were once raised for food, but were released or escaped and subsequently established themselves as a wild population. In some cases, cities have attempted to manage or even eradicate feral chicken populations, while in others, they have been left to coexist with humans.

The presence of free-roaming chickens in Yuba City adds to the city’s charm and uniqueness. While the origin of the chickens remains a mystery, residents and visitors alike have come to accept and appreciate them as part of the local culture.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Yes the chickens did come from the stockyard, as a little boy we used to take cows to the stockyard for sale and mini chickens roamed throughout the property, when they close down the stockyard the chickens were never rounded up and ran free. I’ve lived here all my life and that is the correct statement about the chickens.

    1. You are correct! As a kid been there many times. The hawks keep them down some. Not many baby’s make it. But enough!

    2. I grew up in Sutter Country, also. The chickens are left over from the auction yard and small farmers in that area of Yuba City

  2. Even though as the AD states these are not the type of chickens we eat. Ok but some cultures do and if these are part of our city, community then they should be punished if doing so. Just saying ..

    1. Punished for catching and eating wild chickens? Considering theyre a public nuisance and cause damages to vehicles in most of our parking lots, id say someone eating them is doing the rest of us a favor.

    2. If the population of Chickens is left unchecked, in short order, you will have way too many chickens, There is a constant predation of the Chickens from both animals, and man, but the population keeps going up.

  3. I agree with David Sims. I too also went to the old auction yard with my Dad all the time. And the chickens were all over the place. So when the auction yard closed, the chickens just kept on roaming. They have always been here, so leave them alone. They are very self sufficient and don’t need anyone to take care of them. And stop trying to come up with other reasons for them being here. Anyone who is old enough KNOWS that they originated from the old Auction Yard.

  4. when I sold RE in the 90’s there was a vacated house near Franklin and Walton that had empty chicken coops and several chickens that were just running around, notified city but they didn’t do anything about them. These feral chickens could be from those.
    I believe that the city is trying to collect them and give to landowners that have large enough properties to take in.
    I don’t think anyone should be punished for the removal of these chickens. They are a pest to the properties surrounding this area. They are also a danger to drivers when they enter highway 99.

  5. I have seen them for decades. Every once in a while people go through and take a bunch. However they always bounce back. This year looks to be a huge year. I’m already seeing hens with lines of chicks following.

  6. Moved from Sacramento to this area a short time ago and have come enjoy watching and interacting with these often colorful birds. I think it’s pretty neat and hope they can continue roam with appreciation.

  7. Moved from Sacramento to this area a short time ago and have come enjoy watching and interacting with these often colorful birds. I think it’s pretty neat and hope they can continue roam with appreciation.

  8. CAN WE PLEASE GET RID OF THE ROOSTERS!?! These chickens are loud and noisy and invite other vermin and they are breeding out of control. Enough is enough.

  9. I don’t live in Yuba City any longer but I do visit it a lot and still have relatives who live there. I lived there in the late 60s, 70s & 80s and at that time, I do not remember there ever being any chickens. Neither does my siblings or my friends who have lived there for 50 + years. I first noticed all those chickens in the 2000s. I was kinda blown away when I was trying to get gas and all these chickens are running around. Then I saw them in parking lots, everywhere! One afternoon while getting my nails done, a chicken wondered in. Apparently, the chicken wanders into this nail salon several times a day, everyday. So they named him. Lol.

  10. I basically grew up in Yuba City, moving there in the late 60s and lived there until 1989 before moving away permently. I do have relatives that still reside there, along with a few lifetime friends. So I do go and visit occasionally. During the time I lived there, there were No wild chickens running around everywhere. None of my siblings remember any chickens either. First time i noticed them was when I was getting gas at a station near 99. Thought it was odd that a gas station had all these chickens. A few visits to YC after that, was when I noticed chickens in every parking lot! One afternoon, while having my nails done, a chicken wandered in. Apparently this chicken comes into the nail salon several times a day, everyday, so they named him. Lol

  11. I moved to Yuba City 2 years ago. My sister and I love those chickens. We even feed them. They are street wise as well I’ve only seen 1 or 2 of them ran over by cars.

  12. The town of Sonoma used to have chickens in the downtown area, which is centered around a large
    historic square. They were part of the charm of the city, very colorful, locals & tourists loved them, and there were many
    chicken-themed articles in the stores. 99% of them were completely harmless. Then one day, an aggressive
    rooster pecked a kid. He was probably habituated to tourists feeding him, and saw food in the kid’s hand.
    The town government decided to get rid of them all, instead of just the one aggressive rooster. The locals rallied and
    protested, using artwork and signs proclaiming “Save Our Peckers!!” Despite this, the chickens
    were removed. The town has never had the same charm.

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