If you’re a tourist that happens to visit Hawaii, the Maui region, one question you’re likely to ask your tour guide is why are there so many chickens in the region. You see, whether you’re on the beach or in the densest areas of Hawaii, you’ll be likely to see so many Maui chickens roaming alone across the city.
From the locals, the administration in Maui to the lawmakers, the increasing number of feral chickens in Maui has raised a huge concern over the last few years. In fact, a few years back, feral chickens caused a serious power outage in Kahului Airport where a chicken got into a transformer and damaged some parts.
According to most Maui residents, feral chickens are not as delicious as chickens found in grocery stores. For this reason, people don’t actually eat them thus increasing their numbers remarkably. Nonetheless, chicken farming is one of the major pillars that supports Hawaii’s economy. I think the conducive climate here plays a major role in making Hawaii a perfect place to raise chickens. So, why are there so many chickens in Hawaii? Let’s find out.
A Short History of Chickens Getting on Maui
So, how did chickens get to Maui? Well, according to most journals, chickens were brought to Hawaii a thousand years ago by the first settlers to discover these islands. They were the Polynesians. Since they embarked on large ocean voyages, the Polynesians carries chickens when sailing, which according to fossils extracted, were very similar to the Red Junglefowl.
So, even before Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, the Red Junglefowl had already been introduced to the Island and had even crossbred with native domesticated chickens. Now, after arriving in Hawaii, most of these foreign chickens thrived due to the conducive climate that was ideal for raising chickens.
According to Alan Cooper, a director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, most of the feral chickens rooming in Maui have the same DNA signature as fossil remains of the Polynesian Red Junglefowl dug in various regions.
Reasons for Having So Many Chickens in Maui
If you’re a tourist or just a visitor touring different parts of Maui, you’ll be surprised by the large number of feral or wild chickens roaming the area. This leaves most people asking, why are there so many chickens in Maui?
Now, there are different reasons why Maui record a high number of feral chickens. In fact, according to local reports, Maui residents and officials are concerned about the high increase in the wild chicken population, which they say is a nuisance to the Island.
- Warm Climate: So, the first reason why Maui has a high number of wild chickens is the type of climate in the region. Actually, the type of climate here is considered warm and conducive for raising chickens. I guess this is the main reason why the Red Junglefowl brought by the early settlers, the Polynesians thrived so well.
- Lack of Predators: The second reason why the population of wild chickens has flourished in Maui is the lack of enough predators to balance the food chain. One, there are no mongooses here to feed on the eggs, and two, local residents claim that meat from feral chickens tastes numb and can’t be compared to that of domesticated chickens.
- Hurricanes: Now, we all know that Hawaii has been a victim of some of the most dangerous hurricanes in the world. Two of these hurricanes are Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992. Though they occurred at different times, these hurricanes caused massive destruction where they ruined thousands of buildings and left hundreds of people homeless and devastated.
As a result of these destructions, hundreds of thousands of domesticated chickens were left to fend for themselves in the wild. This caused a massive rise in Maui feral chickens, whose effect has become a major problem today.
The Kinds of Chickens Living in Maui
Now, the Red Junglefowl is considered one of the earliest chicken breeds to touch the Hawaiian soil. This bird was brought by the Polynesians, who were the first people to discover this Island. The Polynesians mostly traveled with their chickens to provide them with meat and egg produce. The Red Junglefowl had a distinctive appearance that consisted of Red, White, Orange, Brown, and Gold plumage.
Later came Captain Cook and after many years, came Filipino people who moved in to work in sugar plantations. Since Filipinos loved cockfighting, they brought their own aggressive breed of chickens. The Filipino cockfighting breeds were slender and had low egg production. For that reason, modern production breeds were introduced that were heavier and laid more eggs. These chickens were raised as backyard chickens.
Sadly, after the aftermath of hurricanes in 1982 and 1992, hundreds of buildings, including chicken coops were destroyed leaving chickens to roam freely.
Today, Maui feral chickens are considered hybrids, as they have a genetic blend of Red Junglefowl, fighting chickens, and a host of production breeds that were once backyard chickens. These chickens have small bodies and are quick and adaptable.
The roosters have large combs, and brilliant reddish hackles, and they crow endlessly making them a nuisance. Hens have smaller combs with varied color variations as compared to the roosters.
How to Catch a Maui Chicken?
Now, we all love chickens. Most people raise them for meat and egg produce while others raise them as pets or for ornamental use, especially if you’re dealing with designer breeds. But, when it comes to the Maui chickens, this is a whole different story. To be honest, these wild chickens have gone to the level of being considered pests.
Most residents complain of noise pollution from roosters while farmers complain of destruction in their farms and gardens when these birds forage in search of worms, insects, and centipedes.
That said, the only solution to this issue is trapping the wild chickens. So, to catch them most people lay traps on their farms with food and water as baits. Before you trap these birds, you should get a permit from your local offices. After trapping them, you can surrender them to the humane society.
Island Chicken Laws
Although we’ve discussed some of the reasons that have led to the massive increase in wild Maui chickens, they’re not the only reasons. One last reason is protection by laws in Hawaii. Just like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in the USA, Hawaii has local laws that protect some birds from harm.
What this means is that hunting some specific breeds of wild chicken, such as the Red Junglefowl, is considered illegal. Although these birds are noisy and destructive, you can’t just hunt and kill them. The Junglefowl in particular is one such chicken that’s hugely protected by the law. But, there’s one huge problem.
Due to decades of unselective breeding, the Junglefowl crossbred with other indigenous chicken breeds leading to a hybrid. Although other breeds are not protected by law, it’s hard to distinguish Junglefowls from their offspring as most of them bear the same DNA signature. The plumage, shape, and size are all similar making it hard to distinguish which one is native and which one is not.
Island Chickens Problem
Although there are no predators to control the population of these birds, there’s one lethal disease that affects them—the Maui chicken problem. Caused by a bacteria called Mycoplasma gallisepticum, the Maui chicken problem is an illness that affects most chickens in this area. The bacteria affect the respiratory system of most chickens causing them to cough, sneeze and develop runny eyes.
This disease causes death and has no cure. It’s mostly spread when chickens get into contact with other infected birds.
Wild Chicken vs Domestic Chicken
From what we’ve discussed, there’s a lot to talk about regarding Maui chickens. If we can get back to history, you’ll realize that the early settlers in Hawaii had to bring new chicken breeds to enjoy their produce such as meat and eggs.
What this meant is that wild chickens in Maui were too slender to provide enough meat to feed the settlers. The wild chickens were also poor egg layers, which is different from domesticated chickens.
Another difference between wild and domesticated chickens is the plumage. Speaking of the Red Junglefowl, this wild chicken is available in a mix of feather colors that include Orange, Brown, Red, White, Metallic, and Gold. This is different from domesticated chickens, which are available in different colors depending on the breed.
Regarding temperament, most wild chickens are skittish and prefer to be left alone. Since they’re always alert and defensive, they don’t enjoy human companionship at all. This is very different from domesticated chickens, which are friendly, docile, and very gentle.
Lastly, we have the size. Wild chickens, such as the Red Junglefowl are quick and have slender bodies that allow them to penetrate through nooks and crannies. This is very different from domesticated chickens such as the Brahma. In Fact, if you put a Junglefowl next to a Brahma, it will appear like a bantam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Why are Maui Chickens Famous?
Now, Maui chickens are also known as “Moa” in Hawaii. These chickens are famous for their huge population in most parts of Maui. Most tourists enjoy the scene of watching these feral birds rooming around. Some people even feed the birds with treats though it’s prohibited in some regions.
Another factor that makes Maui chickens so famous is their rich history. These birds were brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers to provide them with meat and eggs. After years of uncontrolled breeding, other hybrids emerged that were offsprings of the Junglefowl, cockfighting breeds brought by the Filipinos, and domesticated breeds that were raised by local residents.
Q2. Are the Wild Chickens of Maui Edible?
Yes, they’re edible. However, according to local residents, wild chickens in Maui lack the nuance and flavor found in domesticated chickens. Even feral cats don’t hunt for these birds, something that has increased their population remarkably.
Since these chickens have crossbred with other fowls in the regions, they have slender bodies that make them unsuitable for meat production.
Q3. Can Chickens and Peacocks Live Together in the Wild?
Yes. Peacocks and chickens can live happily together in the wild. However, there are some concerns. One of them is fighting. Although peacocks are gentle in nature, if they happen to fight, peacocks can injure or worse, kill chickens due to their sharp claws and beaks.
Another danger is that chickens can spread a dangerous disease to peacocks known as the Blackhead disease.
So, there you have it. As you can see, Maui chickens are a result of crossbreeding the Red Junglefowl with local domesticated chickens. The result of this uncontrolled breeding has been caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes Iwa and Iniki in 1982 and 1992 respectively.
To those asking why are there so many chickens in Maui, then the reason is the lack of enough predators to control the food chain. Another reason is local laws that have prohibited residents from hunting the Red Junglefowl. Since it’s hard to distinguish this bird from the rest, due to breeding, most people prefer to leave the feral birds alone.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!