Kaua‘i Guide: Feral Chickens Causing a Squawk, and Other Island Happenings
Some call them the “state/island bird” of Kaua‘i.
Photos: lora lamm
They’re on the beach, in state parks, on the lawn of the County’s building and even basking in the air conditioning of airport rental car offices—Kaua‘i’s feral chicken population is exploding. Bolstered by the coop-destroying winds of Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992 and the island’s lack of predatory mongoose, the bird boom has inspired some Kaua‘i businesses to embrace the chicken with a sense of humor. “It’s Kaua‘i’s state/island bird, and Kaua‘i is a state of mind,” says Jim Guerber, owner of Kaua‘i Beer Co., which proudly features a chicken skewered with the alchemy symbol as its logo. “But it’s a charged issue.” He’s not kidding.
Officials in both the Kaua‘i County Planning Department and the Office of Economic Development say that the birds are a noisy nuisance, and the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau thinks they may be bad for business: “We do get complaints from people who think they’re coming here for peace and quiet. … We don’t really feature them as a highlight [to Kaua‘i tourists],” said Sue Kanoho, the bureau’s former executive director. “Some companies have their hat hung on it, but it’s kitschy. … I went into the Aloha Spice [Co.] store the other day and they were selling Kaua‘i Rooster Poop chocolates. Now, that’s not something I’d personally eat, but you can see what we are up against.”
Donovan Claytor, a 39-year-old Kaua‘i businessman, founded Kaua‘i Chicken, a screen-printing company selling apparel emblazoned with the bird. He says, “I just saw this niche with the chicken. … I used to hate them, too. … They’d wake me up at two or three in the morning, but now I get behind it and embrace it.” Despite Kaua‘i officials’ disdain, many tourists actually appear to like the feral fowl. At the airport, Claudia Pacheco, a first-time visitor, placed two quarters and a penny in a machine, turned a handle and produced a flattened copper keepsake with a rooster. “This will remind me of our trip,” she said, “but we have lots of wild roosters in Miami, too.”
Talk of the Town
In December 2016, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg filed quiet title actions against the owners of kuleana lands within his 700-acre property on Kaua‘i’s north shore. After public outcry, he dropped the suit, but residents remain skeptical. Will public access to the beaches be protected? Also, the larger issue of who owns kuleana lands remains to be settled.
For years, local activists have been battling the use of pesticides by agri-chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta and DuPont. Are atrazine, paraquat and glyphosate responsible for environmental contaminations and a spike in birth defects? A recent study says no, but some West Side residents say yes.
At all hours of the day, traffic snakes around Kapa‘a. Kūhiō Highway—the island’s main thoroughfare—is so often clogged that residents avoid traveling between the north and south ends of the island.