It’s no secret that there is a huge amount of feral and wild chickens roaming freely across Hawaiin islands. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether or not chickens are protected in Hawaii.
I reached out to a couple of government bodies in Hawaii; The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and Hawaii.gov and I was directed to some resources on the subject.
Here’s what I was able to find out in regards to whether or not wild chickens are protected, and what you can do about them if you’re a resident:
Are Chickens Protected in Hawaii?
According to the DLNR there is no one answer to this question. It depends on where the chickens are, what you intend on doing with them, and the breed of chicken.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the laws that protect a number of birds across the US. Hawaii, in particular, there are additional local laws protecting some birds.
When I asked the DLNR about this, I didn’t get a clear ‘yes or no’ answer on the subject of wild chickens though. They directed me to some documentation that answered the following questions:
Related - Why are there so many wild chickens in Kauai?
You Can Trap Wild Chickens on Your Own Property
For most residents, having chickens on their own land is the main issue. I’m the biggest chicken fan in the world, but let’s be honest, they can cause a lot of mess and destruction when they have access to places they shouldn’t have.
DLNR states that you can trap and remove free-ranging wild chickens on your land - as long as you abide by your local laws pertaining to animal cruelty.
So, the answer really is that you should contact your local office depending on where you live exactly and ask them. But, the good news is that you’re very likely going to be told that you can remove chickens from your land.
Why You Shouldn’t Kill Wild Chickens in Hawaii
I keep seeing people saying that chickens, and more accurately Red Junglefowl chickens known as ‘moa’ in Hawaii and protected by law. It’s hard to find where this is explicitly written though.
As far as I can tell, it’s more so due to the general bird protection laws and some of the local laws which differ across the islands.
It’s also a grey area because as far as I can tell, only the Red Junglefowl is protected. Which, due to decades of crossbreeding with various other breeds of chicken means most of the wild chickens on the islands are not true Junglefowl.
If you want to get rid of chickens, I would never take it into your own hands. I would speak with your local government or the necessary department that deals with wildlife first.
Why Are There So Many Wild Chickens in Hawaii?
I have covered this in more detail on some other posts I’ve written, but essentially there are three main reasons to explain why there are so many chickens roaming free:
The first is that several natural disasters have hit the islands over the years and caused a huge amount of damage to property. This was the main reason why chickens were released into the wild.
The second reason is that there are very few natural predators on the islands that pose a threat to chickens. So, once they were let free by the hurricanes, they were able to survive and multiply.
The third reason is what I’ve already mentioned in this article; there are local and state laws that protect certain birds and restrict the powers residents have to remove them themselves.
The combination of these three things basically gave wild chickens all the freedom they needed to live off the land. Wild chickens are very adept at surviving, all it takes is some edible plants and bugs to munch on.
Related - Why Are There So Many Chickens in Maui?
What to Do About Wild Chickens if You Live in Hawaii
There have been a number of ‘chicken management programs’ over the years to try and get the numbers down across the islands. It’s not like the government does not think it’s a problem.
As a rule of thumb, if the chickens are on your land, it’s likely to be on you to do something about them. You just have to run it by the local authority in your area first so you can be sure you’re acting lawfully.
If they’re on city or public property, it’s on the city to do something about it.
Chickens being protected by law in Hawaii is one of those things that just seems to always be said. Yet, as you can see from what I’ve written, it’s not that clear cut.
There are some local and state laws stopping people from going around culling them. But that does not mean you cannot do anything about wild chickens if you live on the islands and they’re annoying you.
Speak with your local wildlife department in your area and see what they say before doing something yourself. There will be a legal solution to help.
Image credits - Photo by Livia Widjaja on Unsplash