Hawaii Is Battling Hordes of Feral Chickens (and the Chickens Are Winning)

  • It’s like the plot of a zombie disaster movie — but with chickens.

Ah, Hawaii! Sunshine, sandy beaches, tropical warmth — and thousands of aggressive feral chickens.

That’s probably not what you’d want from your Hawaii vacation. But if you head over to the island of Oahu right now, it’s what you’ll get.

For months, Hawaiians have been dealing with an overabundance of feral chickens running amok. The loud clucking pests are not only aggressive — but they also poop everywhere.

The situation has gotten so unbearable that the Hawaii State Legislature has all but declared war on the chickens. Unfortunately for them, the chickens seem to be winning.

They’ve (mostly) managed to successfully avoid any attempts to trap or catch them. Meanwhile, local authorities seem unable to push through any meaningful efforts to curb the chicken population.

Half-Hearted Attempts

Earlier this year, Hawaii State Legislature tried to establish a state-funded program to “address” the feral chickens. Senate Bill 2195 proposed a five-year pilot program to eradicate the cluckers.

Unfortunately, the authorities couldn’t really agree on what it meant by “eradicating” the chickens.

“We want to be humane, you know, we were very mindful about that. But at the same time, this is really, you know, a road hazard, a health hazard, and we need to take care of all of our communities,” State Senator Bennette Misalucha told KHON2 in February.

However, by May, the measure had failed to pass the State legislature. For the lack of statewide effort, the City of Honolulu decided to take matters into its own hands.

In March 2022, Honolulu installed traps in five locations around the city. They remained in place for two months until city officials evaluated their effectiveness.

The results weren’t good. Over the two-month period, the traps caught only 67 chickens while costing around $7,000 —totaling $104 per bird.

Hardly cost-effective.

In July, authorities on Oahu resorted to one last desperate measure. They put up signs reminding locals not to feed the chickens.

“This is part of a larger effort to try and mitigate the feral chicken population. I think what happens is a lot of people, it’s a novelty to them. They’ll feed birds, they’ll feed chickens, they’ll feed various animals in the parks and they don’t understand the broader causes and consequences,” Nathan Serota, the spokesman for the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks & Recreation told SFGate.

Local Opinion

Many of the locals are understandably frustrated with the government’s inaction in dealing with the chickens. We can read their feeling in the request for opinions the state government put out when planning Senate Bill 2195.

“We have an over-population on every street, roaming, foraging, creating serious property damage. … Many of us work long hours, even double shifts, and to not be able to sleep in due to the cacking [sic] and crowing of the feral roosters and chickens has really been an unfair burden and hardship,” said resident Majid Joneidi.

Another local, Desiree S. Garner, also had complaints about the constant noise from the chickens.

“From dawn to setting sun, there is a constant crowing daily, and I work from home so it is hard and sometimes embarrassing if I have to make a call to the mainland and it sounds like I am in a barnyard,” Garner wrote.

Not only are the chickens loud. According to resident Murdoch Ortiz, they also create a terrible mess.

“The feral fowl are dirty and drop their waste, with strong smells, all over the walkways, driveways, and street area. I’ve seen them on top of the garbage cans of adjacent properties creating havoc and damage as they tear open trash bags and scatter the trash all over,” Ortiz complained.

But not everyone was for the bill at the time. Some residents thought it was too unclear and worried the word “eradicate” simply meant killing the chickens.

“This bill is very broad in its definition of ‘eradicate’ and there should be a more defined way of explain what that means. … It would be in the best interest to install a humane treatment plan, and not ‘eradicate,’ or kill or capture,” wrote Heather Chapman.

A Home-Made Problem

But where did the thousands of chickens come from? Nobody’s really sure, but they didn’t pop up overnight.

“It’s a bit of a complicated matter because, legally, people in residentially zoned areas can own chickens, they can have two chickens on their property. More than likely, it was the domesticated chickens that got loose and just started procreating,” explained Serota.

Some have pointed their fingers at the hurricanes Iwa and Iniki, which struck Hawaii in 1982 and 1992, respectively. At the time, the storms wrecked many of the locals’ chicken coops, releasing the birds into the wild.

Over the 40 years since, the chickens have enjoyed a Hawaiian vacation. There’s plenty of food in the trash, the weather is good, and nobody seems to be trying very hard to get rid of them.

Is it any wonder, then, that the chickens are now overrunning Hawaii?