Soon after visitors to Kauai drive away from the airport and head to their lodgings, they’ll see chickens—roosters, hens, and adorable baby chicks--on roadsides, crossing city streets, in parking lots, and in open fields. In short, everywhere.
I love these wild chickens. The multi-colored flamboyant roosters strutting around like masters of their domain; the usually brownish-blackish hens rooting around for grubs; and the cutest cheeping chicks who keep close tabs on their mothers and obey her every cluck.
But what accounts for there being so many chickens? And where did they come from?
All the major Hawaiian Islands have chickens, and it is believed that they were brought to the islands by the first Polynesian explorers from the Marquesas Islands located 2,500 miles south. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated archipelago in the world.
The Polynesians brought red junglefowl, the ancestor of modern chickens, along with other livestock in huge boats. Most of the roosters in Hawaii today closely resemble their ancestors.
But why there are so many chickens on Kauai with varied plumage? Two hurricanes a decade apart may be the answer. Hurricanes Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992, tore through the island. Chickens that had been kept on farms and in coops escaped and became feral. Freed from confinement, the birds roamed the island freely and, with no predators except for cats and dogs, they reproduced in great numbers.
After the hurricanes set them free, various breeds of domesticated chickens interbred with the junglefowl, creating a population of fowl whose feathers vary in color in some interesting ways. The baby chicks in one brood may also display a variety of colors from pale yellow to solid black.
Kauai’s chickens are incredibly brave and gutsy. Dorothy and I were interrupted at lunch the other day by a group of chicks that tried to grab food off our plates while we were eating at our picnic table!
But I love them. I love watching chickens behaving like chickens, the chicks learning from their mothers how to dig the ground for grubs, how they pounce on insects and other live food, how the hens’ clucking signal the chicks to stay close. I also love the graceful fantails of the hens, which they spread out as they lead their babies around.
It’s the purity of nature at work in front of my eyes, and I rejoice in it.
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Do you get to keep the eggs? Happy Easter!
We marveled at the chickens on Kauai also when we were there the spring just after Iniki. The only thing we did not enjoy about them was the roosters crowing at 4 am every morning!