The reason why there are so many wild chickens on Kauai is due to hurricanes causing domestic birds to get loose, and the lack of predators. Chickens have been mating and reproducing for decades with little disruption.
How Did Chickens Get on Kauai?
There have been chickens on the island of Kauai dating back hundreds of years. It’s believed that the first Polynesian settlers brought ‘moa’, more commonly known as the Red Junglefowl to the island.
The Red Junglefowl is the closest wild relative of domestic chickens. It was brought over to the island for food; using them for meat and eggs. The feathers were also used in cloaks and other clothing items by royalty.
In later years, as settlements grew and more people moved to the Island of Kauai, more breeds of domestic chickens were introduced.
Why Are There So Many Chickens in Kauai?
The reason why there are so many chickens in Kauai, and wild chickens, in particular, is due to a couple of natural disasters.
Many locals would keep backyard chicken. In 1982, hurricane Iwa swept through the islands of Kauai, Oahu, and Niihau destroying thousands of buildings and leaving hundreds of people homeless.
This hurricane also destroyed hundreds of backyard coops, causing hundreds of chickens to be freed into the wild.
Most of those chickens remained in the wild, and as naturally happens in nature, they began to grow in numbers.
Then, in 1992, another devastating hurricane hit Hawaii. This hurricane was named Iniki, and again, it did considerable damage to the island and freed hundreds of chickens while destroying buildings.
Combine the number of chickens being released into the wild with the lack of natural predators preying on them and no huge scale efforts to cull the numbers, and it’s easy to understand why there are so many wild chickens on the island of Kauai.
Related - Why Are There So Many Chickens in Maui?
What Kind of Chickens Are on Kauai?
The chickens on Kauai are essentially hybrids. They are all descendants of the Red Junglefowl, as are all domestic chickens. But most of them look a lot more like the Red Junglefowl than the fancy backyard breeds we are used to.
Red Junglefowl typically have a mix of feather colors. They have orange, brown, red, white, gold, and even some metallic green in their plumage. They’re medium-sized birds but tend to be more slender than typical backyard breeds like the Sussex and Wyandotte for example.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘can you eat the chickens on Kauai?’. Despite many attempts to turn them into meals, it’s never become an option. They are regarded as inedible, and as you’ll read below, the native birds are protected anyway.
Related - Can you eat Kauai chicken eggs?
Kauai Chicken Population Control
While wild chickens are amusing for tourists, and they have become somewhat of a tourist feature - they can be annoying to people living on the island.
Just think about noisy roosters in the morning, foraging throughout the night, damage to property...not everyone is happy about chickens roaming around.
It’s a slightly grey area in regards to removing wild chickens on the island. The problem is, ‘Moa’ which is the name for wild Jungle Fowl is protected under state law.
There are laws that protect birds in Hawaii, and this includes Junglefowl. The Junglefowl is important to the history of Kauai and Hawaii, and no one is allowed to take removing them into their own hands.
Locals can remove non-native chickens, however. The issue lies in identifying non-native chickens. After decades of cross-breeding, it’s really not clear sometimes if a chicken is protected or not.
What to Do When You See Wild Chickens in Kauai
If you’re visiting Kauai and you see chickens, which I’m sure you will as there are so many, all should do is enjoy this unique and interesting sight.
It’s funny because Kauai is officially known as the ‘Garden Isle’, and it’s also become known as ‘Chicken Isle’ and ‘Chicken Salad Island’ in recent years.
The chickens are totally harmless, the worst you’ll get is a few of them pestering you if they think you have food.
If you’re visiting Kauai, just remember that people live on the island. They usually don’t want people feeding or stirring up the chickens.
They’ve come to accept that they’re there, I’m sure, but from what I can tell most people would be happier if the numbers dwindled.
Now you know the answer as to why there are so many chickens on Kauai - it really is the result of mother nature.
A couple of devastating storms helped to free chickens into the wild. The lack of predators and a terrain that provides plenty of places for chickens to hide, safely lay eggs, and forage for food has made it possible for them to increase in numbers over the years.
Image credits - Photos by Ot van Lieshout and Ayu Debab on Unsplash
Red Jungle Fowl - Hawaii Birding Trails.gov
Hurricane Iniki: Quick facts about Hawaii's most powerful storm - Hawaiinewsnow.com