Chickens are as common on Kauai, Hawaii, as coconut trees or sunshine. There are wild chickens everywhere: At parks, at the beach and under the trees in every yard. Tourists to the island can even buy chicken dolls at gift shops, dressed up in Hawaiian print and hula skirts. Because nothing says “Hawaiian” like a chicken from Kauai.
And now, Kauai’s chickens are dying. By the dozens.
Right now, there’s a dead chicken in my yard. It’s kind of gross, really. I should go and bury it. But why are they dying? In a recent newspaper article on my island, the Kauai Humane Society announced that is thinks a bacterial infection is killing all of these chickens. According to the Kauai Humane Society, their workers collected dozens of dead chickens in separate sections of the island, including almost a dozen at a church. What did they have in common? A bacteria infection.
Rebecca Rhoades is the director of the Kauai Humane Society, and she agrees and doesn’t think that the numerous chicken deaths around Kauai are caused by poisoning, which is one of the reasons that first came to mind as reports of deceased chickens spread.
A bacteria infection can occur among chickens that are suffering from overpopulation. Chicken overpopulation is definitely one of the problems on Kauai, with some people advocating widespread hunting to help bring the numbers down. At a recent visit to Kokee State Park on a mountain on Kauai, chickens were literally everywhere. It didn’t help that the state park’s gift shop sold chicken feed to tourists for 25 cents a bag.
Thankfully, the bacteria infection does not appear to pose any danger to humans, and so far is only targeting chickens. Some officials are concerned on its impact on other birds, but nothing has been noticed yet. The biggest danger would be the appearance of a disease such as the West Nile virus, which would pose a serious threat to the island of Kauai’s endangered native Hawaiian birds. Another bird-related worry is avian influenza, but the current bout of dead chickens does not seem related to the bird flu.
If you find a dead bird, including a dead chicken, you should call the Kauai Humane Society at (808) 632 – 0610 or the Hawaii Department of Health.
Kauai residents worried about the chicken overpopulation should never poison the chickens. Poisoned chickens die slowly and painfully, and then – once dead – can pose a danger to dogs and cats and other household pets. Island residents wishing to rid themselves of the wild chickens can borrow humane traps from the Kauai Humane Society.