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The familiar crow of a rooster is an iconic sound in Hawaii, but feral chickens have become such a nuisance that residents are searching for humane ways to control their population.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Feral chicken control methods involve trapping and relocation, limiting food and shelter resources, or deterring chickens from coming into an area. Humane euthanization is also an allowed control method.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover why there are so many feral chickens in Hawaii, the issues they cause, humane control methods you can use, the legal considerations, and tips for preventing future feral chicken problems.

Understanding the Feral Chicken Problem in Hawaii

Origin of Feral Chickens in Hawaii

Feral chickens first arrived in Hawaii with the Polynesian settlers over 1,000 years ago. They served as a good source of food and were integrated into traditional Hawaiian culture.

However, after European contact in the late 18th century, domesticated chickens began escaping captivity or were released intentionally.

Without native predators to keep their numbers in check, feral chicken populations exploded across the islands.

Today, it’s estimated there are well over 450,000 feral chickens roaming Hawaii. They can be found on all major islands, with large concentrations on Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii Island. Their ability to reproduce quickly and thrive in various environments has allowed their numbers to spiral out of control.

Issues Caused by Large Feral Chicken Populations

The booming feral chicken population in Hawaii has led to a number of problems for residents and the environment:

  • Noise pollution – Constant crowing and clucking, especially in early morning hours
  • Property damage – Chickens scratch and dig up yards, gardens, golf courses
  • Feces accumulation – Large amounts of chicken droppings collect in yards, beaches, waterways
  • Spread of disease – Chickens carry and transmit disease to other birds and even humans
  • Adverse ecological impact – Overforaging displaces native species, spreads invasive plants
  • Road hazards – Chickens frequently in roads, causing accidents and traffic disruptions

The Hawaii Department of Health has received a growing number of complaints from frustrated residents regarding chickens. Clearly, the situation has become an expensive and inconvenient problem needing real solutions.

Some creative ideas have been proposed, like training the chickens to produce manure for local farms or using them in cultural celebrations. However, most experts agree that management of the feral chicken population is crucial before their numbers grow even higher.

A multi-pronged approach will likely be needed, including trapping, rehoming, regulation, and deterrence strategies.

Humane Control Methods to Get Rid of Feral Chickens

Trapping and Relocation

One compassionate approach is to humanely trap feral chickens and relocate them to animal sanctuaries. Havens like Maui Humane Society’s Chicken Sanctuary provide a safe, caring environment for hens. Traps like the Havahart chicken trap or self-built traps can effectively and gently capture multiple birds at once.

It’s vital to promptly rehome trapped chickens to prevent stress. With thoughtful planning, trapping and relocation lets communities humanely reduce feral flocks.

Limiting Food, Water, and Shelter

Without survival essentials, feral chickens will leave areas on their own. Residents can remove outdoor feeding stations, cap exposed food trash, fix leaky spigots, and block potential roosting spots in yards.

Public information campaigns also help notify neighbors to secure food sources and restrict shelter access. Though it takes time, curtailing sustenance gently discourages large congregations of birds wandering neighborhoods.

Wildlife specialists posit this passive deterrent method succeeds when whole communities collectively participate.

Exclusion and Deterrents

Where permissible, property owners can install physical barriers to sensitively dissuade chickens from settling. Options include wire mesh fencing, moveable electric poultry netting, elevating plants/crops on raised beds, and pruning lower branches.

Applying natural repellents like garlic oil, chili pepper powder, or predator urine near unwanted areas may also gently deter fowl. Vigilantly upkeeping exclusions and reapplying deterrents is vital for positive results.

When thoughtfully planned, passive barriers and irritants compassionately discourage lingering chickens.


In inevitable cases of aggressive, ill, or injured feral chickens, certified animal control specialists may humanely euthanize birds according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines. Approved methods like CO2 chamber gassing minimize suffering.

Proper carcass disposal controls disease spread. While deeply sobering, veterinarian-led euthanization compassionately ends unremitting pain and adequately protects public health if less severe control methods fail.

Ultimately, a nuanced combination of passive deterrents, exclusions, and when absolutely necessary, humane euthanization promotes public wellbeing while exhibiting empathy towards animals.

Local Laws and Regulations for Feral Chicken Control

Feral chickens present unique challenges in Hawaii due to the island’s mild climate and lack of natural predators. While they are descendants of domestic poultry, over generations, these chickens have adapted to survive and reproduce successfully in the wild.

Recognizing feral chickens as both a nuisance and a valued part of local culture, Hawaii has developed laws and regulations intended to balance various interests. Here is an overview of some key legal considerations surrounding feral chicken management:

County Ordinances

In Hawaii, each county is authorized to develop its own ordinances regulating the keeping and control of feral chickens. For example:

  • Honolulu County bans feeding feral chickens and requires residents to contain their poultry. It also prohibits hunting or harming feral chickens.
  • Maui County requires permits for trap-neuter-release programs and the harboring of feral chickens. It limits the number based on property size.
  • Kauai County prohibits letting poultry run unrestrained and makes property owners responsible for removal of stray poultry.

So regulations can vary significantly across islands and counties. Check current ordinances in your area prior to undertaking any feral chicken control efforts.

Hunting Regulations

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) oversees hunting of game birds, including feral chickens. They classify chickens as “non-protected” – allowing them to be hunted year-round with no bag limits.

However, DLNR mandates humane hunting practices, prohibits trespassing onto private lands, and requires permits for hunting in certain designated areas.

Animal Cruelty Laws

Hawaii’s animal cruelty laws prohibit torturing, mutilating, poisoning, or unnecessarily killing vertebrate animals, including feral chickens. So measures that ostensibly harm chickens could potentially violate statutes against animal abuse.

Proposed control efforts should abide by animal welfare laws.

Preventing Future Feral Chicken Problems

Keep Chickens Enclosed

One of the best ways to prevent feral chicken issues is to ensure domestic chickens are kept enclosed and unable to escape into the wild. Chickens that are allowed to roam free have a high potential to establish feral populations if they are not caught.

Use sturdy fencing and coops to keep backyard chickens securely contained.

Some tips for proper chicken enclosure and containment include:

  • Build a coop with fencing buried at least 12 inches underground to prevent digging and escaping
  • Use Hardware cloth or chicken wire with very small, 1/2 inch openings so chickens cannot squeeze through
  • Make sure fencing is at least 5-6 feet tall so chickens cannot fly over it
  • Cover the top of outdoor enclosures with wire, netting or a roof to prevent climbing and jumping out
  • Clip chickens’ wings regularly so they cannot fly well or at all
  • Use multiple types of fencing or barriers like electric poultry netting as a secondary containment measure
  • Do routine checks for holes or weaknesses chickens can use to escape and repair them promptly

Keeping enclosed chickens from escaping into the wild is crucial to prevent more unwanted feral chickens from establishing themselves throughout the islands.

Don’t Dump Unwanted Chickens

Dumping unwanted chickens instead of finding them proper homes is unfortunately another way some irresponsible owners contribute to feral chicken problems in Hawaii. Chickens dumped in rural areas easily form groups and reproduce at rapid rates while disrupting native ecosystems.

Some things Hawaii residents should do instead of dumping unwanted chickens include:

  • Advertise on websites or social networks to find adopting families interested in rehoming chickens
  • List chickens for adoption with local animal shelters or rescue organizations
  • Contact farms that may be willing to take in extra chickens
  • As an absolute last resort, humanely cull unwanted chickens instead of releasing them into the wild

Releasing domestic chickens to fend for themselves puts native birds and plants at risk while furthering the invasive species crisis Hawaii faces. Dumping unwanted chickens is never acceptable.

Limit Food Sources

Feral chickens tend to congregate wherever there are abundant food sources. Limiting the food they can access helps discourage feral chickens from settling in particular areas.

Some strategies for limiting feral chicken food sources include:

  • Keeping garbage receptacles closed using bungee cords or straps
  • Putting away chicken feed at night inside sealed bins instead of leaving it accessible
  • Avoiding feeding feral chickens intentionally
  • Planting gardens further from areas frequented by feral chickens
  • Cleaning up fallen bird food under feeders
  • Discouraging relatives, friends or neighbors from feeding feral chickens

Using multiple techniques to limit the food feral chickens can easily get helps prevent large populations from gathering. Never feeding feral chickens seems compassionate but truly enables them to multiply and cause harm.

Also read: The Reasons Behind Hawaii’S Large Chicken Population


Feral chickens present challenges in Hawaii, but there are humane methods to control populations. By understanding local regulations, excluding chickens, limiting resources, deterring roosting, and preventing irresponsible dumping of unwanted chickens, communities can find a sustainable balance.

With persistence and a multifaceted approach focused on deterrence and exclusion instead of widespread culling, Hawaii residents can reduce nuisance issues while still enjoying the natural music of a few friendly neighborhood chickens.

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