Most cities in the world spend a lot of money and time fighting ‘the pigeon’ problem. I read that pigeon-related damage in the U.S. has been estimated to cost $1.1 billion a year. Apparently a pigeon dispenses about 25 pounds of excrement a year! Did you know that they have to use steam hoses to clean it? Pigeons and their dung can spread more than 60 diseases. The futility of killing pigeons is a fact; immigrants or newborns quickly fill an emptied niche in any ecosystem.They are also prolific breeders and great colonizers. They urbanized the cities along with us and inhabit them in even greater numbers than their human co-settlers.
There are barely any pigeons on Maui. I saw two playing on the beach the other day. They didn’t seem to posses the same traits as their urban cousins. They seem to have a more instinctual, natural attitude toward life here: they weren’t bagging for food or lingering in areas where they could find some human leftovers. These pigeons seem to be very capable of providing for their own food and don’t socialize with humans as their city relatives tend to.
There is however a bird problem on Maui: feral chickens invaded Maui. Just like pigeons in big cities, feral chickens are everywhere, I repeat everywhere. No need for alarm clocks here, your local feral rooster will do it for you, with pleasure at about 4.30 am. Some locals complain there is no benefit in killing them: “These feral chickens are too skinny for a good roast, their meat is not tender, but could make a good chicken soup”, one of them stated.
Last year the mayor got involved after the unhappy “airport power outage’ incident. Apparently, a feral chicken got into a transformer and caused a power outage at nearby Kahului airport, rent a car offices, an airport hotel and other businesses for about a half hour. No mention of what happened to the chicken, but something is telling me it might have not survived. The mayor proposed a nearly $200,000 increase in Maui Humane Society’s budget and was asking the society to use some of that funding to develop a response to the island’s ‘feral chicken problem’. The chickens must have pleaded to the city council and promised to behave, no cutting power for fun anymore, because this increase never happened.
I tried to interview my local feral chicken family, there is about 20 of them around our gated community, we do like to keep them safe, but they were nowhere to be found. Later on, I saw them pecking on the other side of the fence, it seems they have an adventurous spirit. I’ll try to get a statement later.
There is a lot of stories on how the chickens got to Hawaii, but what seemed as the most likely occurrence was that the Polynesians brought chickens to Hawaii on their canoe voyages (thought to have originated from Malaysia), a long, long time ago. There are wild chickens all over the Hawaiian islands and the Pacific islands and with little natural enemies they thrive in this tropical paradise. I must stress out that the feral cats do not disturb the feral chickens! They have co-existed very peacefully for hundreds of years now.
To conclude, it is evident that the only problem in the ‘feral chicken problem’ is the human element. The chickens slipped once, with the power outage incident, but that can be forgiven, we all have our bad days. Maybe I’m just partial, but it seems to me they are causing no damage to the ecosystem of the island, unlike us, their human co-inhabitants. In a way I envy them, they get the full benefit of living in a tropical paradise with no hustle, no existential problems, all they need is provided for by mother nature, no worries about huge discrepancies in living cost and wages among the chickens. They can just happily peck away, so let them.