EL VERANO, Calif. (AP) _ The chickens came home to roost - all over the place.

Residents say the fowl have befouled their town by trampling gardens, clucking through the night, defecating on cars and crossing the road whenever they please.

''I had to put netting over my plants to protect them,'' said Christiane Traub. ''They should put the chickens in cages, not my plants.''

Nobody knows where the chickens came from or why they came here. They have run wild in El Verano, 40 miles north of San Francisco, for several years.

''Nobody 'fesses up to owning them,'' Barry Evans, director of Sonoma County's animal control office, said this week.

Bob Garcia, a county animal regulation officer, said the county has captured about 50 of the birds in the past few years.

''We have trapped in different locations and brought the population down,'' Garcia said. ''And then in the spring time they hatch little ones and it starts all over again.''

Not all residents are annoyed by the cackling cacophony.

''I kind of like them,'' said 18-year-old Zack Grimm. ''Yeah, they're pretty loud and you can hear them all through the night. But you get used to it.''