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Chickens On A Kauai Beach

Why are there wild chickens in Kauai?

Think of all the metaphors we have for chickens:

  • “It’s chicken feed.”
  • “He’s a chicken.”
  • “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
  • “Cocky”
  • “Strutting like a banty rooster”

This last phrase came from my Missouri grandma. Long before the term “backyard chickens” was coined, she raised these domestic birds in our backyard. I grew up gathering eggs from the “layers” and chasing headless hens. When the laying hens stopped producing eggs, we ate chicken fricassee, chicken and dumplings, and fried chicken.

Chickens in Kauai

On vacation with my son and his family in Kauai, I never expected to see chickens, but there they were, pecking through the dead leaves of a tropical jungle and strutting on Tunnel Beach. If they didn’t have such an aura of “chicken-ness” about them–the bead-black eyes, the pea brain processing only one thought (Eat!)–I’m sure bird watchers would marvel at the auburn birds.

Kauai chicken

But chickens in Kauai aren’t rare. I overheard a German visitor say, “If I called my friends at home and held my cell phone up to the sound of that rooster, they’d think I was in a barnyard.” So true. But why had the birds taken over Tunnel Beach? Why were there chicks in the Wal-Mart parking lot?

The locals say these chickens came with the original Polynesian settlers. Others say cock-fighters imported them. A third tale cites Hurricane Iniki as the cause, claiming the storm freed the captives of a chicken farm. The birds are so ubiquitous that even the local Humane Society doesn’t bother rounding them up. Nor are these birds part of Audubon’s yearly bird count.

This just goes to show you that even in “paradise,” you find the most surprising things. As to the perennial question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” We saw one strutting casually across the highway. My son rolled down his window and shouted, “Why did you do it?” The chicken had no answer. It reached the other side and resumed its pecking. One day it will show up in a story.

What moments of family lore have made it into the stories you tell again and again at the dinner table? When you look back on family vacations, do you recall bits of conversation and details that might make it into a story?

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