Chicken Control Plan Rekindles Debate: Wild Fowl or Feral Cats First?


GETTING ALONG?: Joe Buckley of Haiku hand-feeds a group of chickens, as an indifferent cat looks on. (Photo by Dmitry Egorov from Pexels)

A state proposal to slowly eradicate wild chickens on Hawaiian islands has some Maui locals calling foul.

They ask: Shouldn’t the large amount of feral cats on Maui be addressed first?

State lawmakers have proposed a new bill aimed at eliminating feral chickens on Hawaiian islands by distributing a special bird feed that acts as a contraceptive. An initial 5-year pilot program in Pearl City has been successful enough for state officials to expand it statewide.

“The bill proposes to expand the program into all the major islands, because the wild fowl are deemed a ‘road and health hazard,’ ” said Jacques Moa, a senior analyst for the Hawaii legislature.

The State of Hawaii Department of Health estimates there to be about 500,000 cats on Maui.

As word of the statewide effort spread this week, residents and visitors more concerned with the massive number of feral cats began to question priorities.

“Yes, chickens poop all over the place … but cats do, too!” said Carla Ellington of Makawao. “And feral cats spread disease, and kill native birds.”

The wild chickens, on the other hand, at least offer some benefits for their cohabitation with humans on Maui. They create fertilizer that helps the local soil, and are living, breathing insect-control units.

“There would be a lot more of those nasty centipedes if not for the chickens,” said Joe Buckley of Haiku, as he hand-fed crushed crackers to local fowl outside his barn. A suspicious feline stood just feet away.

The problem, experts say, is cats are cute. Chickens, well … They make loud noises at all hours, at night, and even during daytime.

“I think we have some mentally confused chickens in our neighborhood,” said Bruce Pupule of Kahului, who lives near Kahului Community Center Park where a brigade of chickens seems to live. “Some have no idea what time of day it is. Aren’t roosters supposed to crow at the break of dawn? Then what’s with the 11 a.m. barkers, or the 2:30 p.m. cacklers? It just seems never-ending.”

“It’s tough to get into the cats vs. chickens debate and determine which is the most obnoxious,” said Peter Johannson, spokesperson for the Maui Humane Society. “We want Maui to be as safe as possible, and the chickens are more apt to wander aimlessly onto a road and cause problems with traffic, and humans overall. Cats are kind of smarter and somehow know the danger of cars."

Some local kids are unhappy about the plan to get rid of the chickens.

“Gosh, they would have to re-do ‘Moana,’ ” said Rebecca Minoaka, 13, of Wailuku, referring to the Disney animated movie set on Maui. “The chicken was like a major character in the cartoon.

“What, would they replace it with a silly cat? I don’t think so. Cats aren't as funny.”

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