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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

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Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

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Saturday
Aug282010

What's up with all the Chickens? A bit of Kauai history!

Arriving on the island of Kauai, one may, or may not, soon be aware of the abundance of  barnyard fowl roaming around the island seemingly at will. There are many stories about the origins and proliferation of Kauai's chicken population -- and most of the stories are true.

The beautifully plumed roosters and multi-colored, spotted hens are descendants of the original "canoe fowl" brought to Hawaii by the first Polynesian voyagers  to be used for food and eggs. The 'Moa" (Hawaiian for chicken or rooster) have survived to this day, and have strengthened their genetic make-up by co-mingling with traditional, white barnyard fowl that were originally housed in pens and chicken coops throughout the island. When various hurricanes made landfall on or near Kauai (4 since the 1950s) and blew down the chicken coops, the new, intermingled chicken species thrived.

Other Hawaiian Islands have escaped this chicken profusion because early sugar growers introduced mongoose to all the islands EXCEPT Kauai. They believed that mongoose would keep the Polynesian rat from decimating the sugar crop. However, the growers overlooked the fact that mongoose -- natural rat killers -- are daytime animals, and rats are nocturnal, so the two never engaged in battle. Mongoose also eat bird -- and chicken -- eggs , thereby greatly reducing bird populations on all islands but Kauai. So the next time a rooster crows at daybreak, you can thank the eco-minded plantation bosses from Kauai who kept the nasty mongoose away from the Garden Isle. Thankfully, a lack of mongoose also allowed native and endemic bird species proliferate on Kauai.