KFC: Kauai’s Feral Chickens

A chicken contently clucking and feeding itself is a charming sight; thousands of them nesting in flower gardens and crowing at ­5am, however, is a bloody nightmare. Any visitor to Kauai will quickly see that the island is plagued by the latter scenario.

Feral roosters, hens, and their chicks are so used to human presence that they stand poised to gobble up the crumbs from any careless diner. An absence of natural predators and wide availability of food have allowed the chickens to propagate unchecked.

The most popular rumor for their pestilential presence is that Hurricane Iniki, which ravaged the island in 1992, destroyed a chicken farm and released its inhabitants all over the Garden Isle. Yet an amateur historian will quickly point out that it was plantation workers who brought chickens over in the 19th century and allowed some to escape into a welcoming subtropical ecology.

Locals have mounted various proposals to deal with these survivors, including a widespread cull (which only elicit howls from animal rights activists) or the introduction of a predator, such as the mongoose. Other island residents, though, express a fondness for the fowl, having adopted a small family of chicks to feed. For the interim, be patient when you see a chicken crossing the road. It just wants to get to the other side.

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