Snorkeling Hen and Chickens – Interesting Topography and Corals

Florida Keys

Snorkeling Hen and Chickens patch reef is well worth doing, and is one of the better spots in the Keys. Like Cheeca Rocks, this reef is closer to shore, and is a short boat ride from Islamorada, compared to going all the way out to the barrier reef edge.

Gray Anglefish seen while snorkeling Hen and Chickens.

You will find this called Hens and Chickens also, but it is really Hen and Chickens, because that is what the reef looks like, a single large patch reef, the hen, surrounded by many little reefs, the chickens.

This nice patch reef is marked by a small tower, and is a pretty big area to snorkel. Plan on spending some time there if you have the choice.

2023 Coral Bleaching Event – Please note that very high water temperatures in the summer of 2023 have caused widespread coral bleaching and death in the Florida Keys. So the descriptions on this page are not accurate. If you wish to see healthy coral reefs we now recommend you visit the Coral Triangle.

School of grunts under soft and hard corals at Hen and Chickens.

The visibility was mixed when we were there, but conditions change all the time. The water was a little green from algae, which is typical of these inner patch reef areas in the Keys.

The area has a nice range of topography, with high and low areas, with channels to explore, and little shelves for fish to hide under. This provides a very nice range of depths that are perfect for snorkeling.

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What We Saw While Snorkeling Hen and Chickens

The reef is diverse, and we found many different hard corals in very healthy condition.

Mountainous Star Coral and a red sponge at Hen and Chickens.

We found beautiful areas of Mountainous Star Coral, Lobed Star Coral, Finger Coral, Brain Corals, and Fire Corals.

Interesting Mountainous Star Coral structures at Hen and Chickens.

And like many of these inner patch reefs, we found lots of healthy sea rods and fans.

Sea rods, fans and tropical fish at Hen and Chickens.

Blurry Fish, Rotten Colors, Garbage Pictures

That does not look like what I saw! See our snorkeling camera pages for tips on selecting a good snorkeling camera, and how to use it for great pictures.

While snorkeling Hen and Chickens we saw lots of Christmas Tree Worms and a ton of sponges, including Red Boring Sponge, Branching Vase Sponge, and Green Finger Sponge.

Purple Sponge at Hen and Chickens.
Vase Sponge at Hen and Chickens.

Orange sponges at Hen and Chickens.

We saw a decent amount of small to medium fish while snorkeling Hen and Chickens, but nowhere near as many as we saw at Cheeca Rocks.

School of grunts over corals seen while snorkeling at Hen and Chickens.

Once again we got to see a Hawksbill Turtle. This one was older and had a few barnacles growing on it. We also had fun watching a Spotted Eagle Ray fly around.

Hawksbill Turtle we found while snorkeling at Hen and Chickens.
Spotted Trunkfish at Hen and Chickens.

For fish we noticed Blue Angelfish, Foureye Butterflyfish, Spotfin Butterflyfish, French and Gray Angelfish, Blue Tangs, a big school of immature Bar Jack, barracuda, chub, grunts, Porkfish, Gray Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper, Bicolor Damselfish, and Yellowtail Damselfish. We found lots of Sergeant Major, and some in the purple phase also. There was a variety of parrotfish, Bluehead Wrasse, Spanish Hogfish, Trumpetfish, and Spotted Trunkfish.

Not bad for a lazy hour of snorkeling Hen and Chickens. It was a treat.

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Find a Boat Company

We suggest you use TripAdvisor to look for current companies running snorkel trips out of Islamorada and reviews of them. The link below goes to a community post with some boat company ideas too.

Midnight Parrotfish at Hen and Chickens.

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