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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Armando Parra

Aired February 15, 2004 - 07:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so why did the chicken cross the road? Well, folks in Key West, Florida don't really care. They just want to get rid of the darn chickens. About 2,000 wild chickens roaming around, making noise, causing trouble. And to the rescue, Armando Parra, a barber who's also now become the town's official chicken catcher.
He joins us by phone. Armando, are you there?

ARMANDO PARRA, KEY WEST CHICKEN CATCHER: Yes, sir. How are you, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: Pretty good. I take it -- so I take it you have chicken problems down there in Key West?

PARRA: Oh, we're having a very big problem in Key West.

MCINTYRE: How bad is it?

PARRA: Well, Key West is only two miles by four miles wide. And I estimate myself there to be over 2,000 chickens running in the middle of the streets, going into restaurants, going into and out of the post office, official government buildings. You name it, they're there.

MCINTYRE: So how did you wangle this coveted position of...

PARRA: Well...

MCINTYRE: ...chicken catcher in the conch republic?

PARRA: Well, there are so many chickens that there was a lot of bacteria coming from chicken feces in the water. And they had to close the beaches. So I figure that we're going to have to hire someone at some point to control these chickens. So I put in a proposal to the city. And they voted unanimously to appoint me as the official first and official chicken catcher in the history of the United States.

MCINTYRE: Well, how's it going? You have any success?

PARRA: I'm doing pretty good. I've actually worked like eight days now. And I've caught over 57 chickens.

MCINTYRE: How hard is it to catch a chicken? PARRA: It's -- in some areas, it's quite difficult. They're like extremely wild. And of course, you know, with so many tourists walking up and down around the traps, that makes it a little difficult. And a lot of people feed them. So when you set traps, they're not hungry. So they -- they'll look at the feed sometimes and walk right by the traps.

MCINTYRE: Now where do these chickens go when you catch them? Are they going to go to the local restaurant or something?

PARRA: No, no, no, no. They go to a park called Indigenous Park, where they're put in the huge cages. And every couple of weeks, we have some farmers that have a converted horse trailer. He'll come down from Meter Mar, which is around Fort Lauderdale area, he's got a 400 acre farm all fenced in, where he releases them.

And before he did this, he had to sign some papers saying that he would never sell them or hurt them in any way. It's kind of like Garden of Eden for chickens. So they live out their normal life.

MCINTYRE: How are you able to continue your barber business if you're doing that...

PARRA: Well, I've been cutting hair for 45 years now. And I only work half a day. So I catch chickens after 1:00 and all day Mondays.

MCINTYRE: And how much money are you going to make from this lucrative chicken catching?

PARRA: I get $20 per chicken. And I have to furnish my own gas, oil. I had to buy insurance. I had to buy city and county licenses. And though my traps...

MCINTYRE: So $20...

PARRA: ...I build most of my traps. And...

MCINTYRE: $20 a bird, though, so what's the potential you could bring in?

PARRA: Well, I can't make any more than $18,000. I have until September the 30th, which ends the fiscal year in Key West. And I have until then to catch $18,000 worth of chickens.

MCINTYRE: All right, well good luck, Armando Parra, the chief chicken catcher there in Key West, Florida.

PARRA: I really needed it. It's not easy being me.

MCINTYRE: It's not easy being you. $18,000, that's not chicken feed.

COLLINS: No.

PARRA: Well, you can make that at a Burger King. MCINTYRE: Thank you, sir.

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