Policy & Politics – Don’t Come After My Chickens

Yes, I feed them. I dump left-over rice, papaya and pumpkin seeds, and all manner of left-over food in my backyard – and then I enjoy watching these beautiful creatures enjoy their feast. In return, they give me their chicken poop – a truly closed loop and some of the best fertilizer in the world.

If HB72 passes into law (it won’t), the police could come after me with a $500 fine.

Yes, those majestic roosters crow at ungodly hours of morning, noon, and night. Yes, they dig holes in my yard that irritates me to no end. But their vibrant plumage, the subtle clucking of the mother hen, and the long train of baby chicks that follow her out of the bushes and into the yard – it’s part of my very being. Images of my children and grandchildren chasing them at the beach, the laughter, the color, the exploding energy of the chickens taking flight just inches from their fingertips – yes, it’s safe to say that chicken culture is embedded in my very soul.

While I of course cannot speak for everyone, where I live, wild chickens are an integral part of our daily lives. I know I’m not the only person who smiles when they see the chickens greeting them at the airport upon returning to Kauai from a trip. 

So leave them the heck alone.

I’m telling you, don’t mess with our chickens.

And while we’re at it, leave my cat “Socks” alone as well. Laws banning the feeding of feral and/or outside cats have also been proposed.

I understand the importance of protecting native birds, I really do. But banning me from feeding my cat who never leaves my yard and who bothers no one but me when she’s hungry?

Socks has never ever killed a native bird, I promise you that. The only birds she’s ever messed with are the doves and rice birds who sometimes fly into our windows, knocking themselves silly, sometimes unconscious, or sometimes worse.

Socks will literally lay stretched out in the shade under the mango tree while the chickens roam just a few feet from her lazy gaze. She couldn’t be bothered with all the work it takes to chase them. And then what? I’m sure she’s thinking. What do I do with them once I catch them (a big assumption there)?

Socks is an outdoor cat who never ever comes into the house. If she did, for sure she and Maximus Aurelius would clash and I can only imagine the damage they would inflict on the inside of our home – racing madly around the rooms chasing each other, and knocking over all manner of things.

Socks was or is (you tell me) a feral cat. She was born under our house. Claudette trapped her and a few of her brothers and sisters, had them fixed and chipped at the Humane Society and then brought Socks home to live with us – outside with the chickens. I feed her every afternoon. She waits patiently on the steps and rubs her body against my legs as I navigate down to the yard where her food bowl sits. What she doesn’t eat, the chickens and the doves finish off.

I’m not entirely clear if a ban on feeding feral cats would apply to Socks. She definitely has a deep feral streak, but she is a family friend who lives with us, in our yard, far away from the natural habitat of native birds.

So, to all the politicians out there. Please leave my chickens, and my cat Socks alone. Maximus can take care of himself. You don’t even want to mess with Max.

Seriously. Don’t you have real work to do? Perhaps you can build some affordable housing, fill some pot-holes, legalize cannabis, cut our taxes, pay our teachers a decent salary, fight climate change, increase health and dental care, regulate tourism, or condemn the Coco Palms hotel and create a community center that honors its deep history and cultural significance.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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18 Responses to Policy & Politics – Don’t Come After My Chickens

  1. Frank DeGiacomo says:

    Feral cats and people’s chickens are the 3rd rail of Hawai’i politics. Politicians would be well advised to leave them alone.

  2. Marisa Plemer says:

    Very cute Max and Socks photo! I think she was asking Max, “Why don’t I get to live inside the house too? You lucky dog!”

  3. Jon Olsen says:

    Excellent perspective Gary! I fully endorse it all the way from here in Maine, after 36 years on Oahu.

  4. Hubbsco says:

    Love your views on everything else, but not on feral chickens. I doubt that your feeding chickens a small amount of organic waste would have much of an impact on the local population, but I don’t think people like you are the target of the proposed legislation. It’s aimed more at people like an ex-neighbor of ours who, for 7 yrs, bought 50 lb bags of feed and put mounds of it in her yard twice a day. As a result it created a massive overpopulation that got so bad, 10 of the adjacent households submitted a petition to the landlord asking for relief. Some of them were elderly folks with vegetable gardens that were decimated by the birds. Others complained about all the poop on their lanais and driveways. And because the early feeding took place at the crack of dawn, the noise was such that sleeping in was difficult.
    Additionally, hundreds of doves would sit on the telephone wires each morning and evening and defecate on the cars parked beneath. It was a mess. The rat population also increased to the point that several neighbors had them in their garages and sheds. And for those that complained, the neighbor would clandestinely throw scoops of feed in their yards as punishment.
    I think the key word when it comes to the natural world is “balance.” Even if the bill passed I highly doubt that anyone would complain about someone feeding a small amount to chickens, or just one feral cat. Obviously that’s not going to create an overpopulation. But it would offer some relief from neighbors like the one we endured (she was eventually evicted).

  5. Valerie says:

    I’m in in full agreement here. I love my beautiful chickens and they love me. I also have 2 outdoor cats that I got from the Humane Society that were unsocialized (feral but technically they do not adopt out ferals). They are neutered. I don’t know how they managed that. One of the kitties will still not let me near over a year later, the other one I can pet but barely. Until I can get flea meds on them, they cannot come in. Don’t touch my chickens which I do feed, don’t touch my cute cats who I feed on my lanai. Thx.

  6. Eleanor Snyder says:

    Right on Gary. One of your best Do the real work damn it!

  7. Jamal says:

    I think that protecting our native species is more important than feeding cats. TNR has been shown to not only reduce predation on native sea birds, but cat poo has a parasite that infects our native (and endangered!) monk seals turning them into zombies and eventually dying. Look up “toxoplasmosis” and “monk seals” as your search terms and see what I mean.

    I love cats and although it is not a great solution for animals but if I were to choose one or the other, native animals take importance.

  8. Ron Gillespie says:

    Gary, we agree for a change!

  9. Wallace T Kohashikawa says:

    We already have too many laws on the books. And most hurt the poor and not the rich. Enacting more laws means hiring more cops, and more cops lead to more problems. Heck, we can’t even provide housing for our homeless problem. We are not the only species to inhabit this earth, and we as humans are compassionate towards animals that live among us. To criminalize this problem will only make things worst.

  10. Cade Jameson says:

    I have not seen any evidence that feral chickens are anything other than a minor nuisance to people, but the cats are a threat to our native wildlife.

    I sympathize because I love animals, but using your presumably well-behave and fixed cat as an example is unconvincing. If you think your cat is representative, you should walk up and down my street and see all the feral cats in my neighborhood. Cats reproduce like crazy and migrate far distances into sensitive habitats across the islands. The NPS installed a five mile long cat fence to protect nesting ‘ua‘u. It’s simply not practical to fence in every sensitive spot on the islands. I enjoy reading your thoughts and often find your commentary insightful, but on this particular issue, you would have done well to talk to anyone who works in wildlife management before offering such an ill-informed opinion. I would be happy to put you in touch with someone who works with our threatened native birds.

    • garyhooser says:

      I understand to some extent and also want to protect native species etc… The challenge is “one size does not fit all” and crafting public policy must be done carefully. All cats are not created equally and thus cannot be treated equally – some are indoor cats, some are city cats, some are neutered, some have a zillion baby cats, some live in areas populated by sensitive habitat and native species, some chase and kill rats which are also bad. But yes…I get it…I’ve worked on this and related issues in the past. So…I would argue that my opinion is not “ill-informed” but rather just somewhat contrary to yours 😉

      • Cade Jameson says:

        A one-size-fits-all policy that controls the feral cat population is the only thing that will work. Cats are amazing animals. Strong, fast little, highly intelligent, predators that breed quick, don’t need to eat a lot, and which have been bred by humans to be cute and command our sympathy. People don’t realize how far their little housepets can travel. There are feral populations in some of the most isolated places on the Big Island. I sometimes camp in Halape. That’s about as far from anywhere where people live that I can think of. How do you think the cats get there? I doubt spent that arduous backpack with an un-fixed breeding pair. There’s a job that keeps getting posted up at Mauna Kea, for someone to do, let’s call it, “cat management.” Again, another isolated place–not close to any neighborhoods. Terrible job, so not many takers, but one that needs to be done to protect the birds.

        I’d rather we attack this problem at it’s source, than pay people to trap and kill cats in the few places that we devote resources to active management. The latter is a flawed ecological strategy. So, no we shouldn’t be feeding this problem! If reason prevailed, the state would be funding spay/neuter clinics, and handing out licenses for animals that are fixed. If unlicensed animals are outside, they should be spayed at the owner’s expense if the owner wants the pet back.

        You say your cat is good and doesn’t leave the yard. But how is anyone supposed to reliably distinguish good cats from bad cats and responsible pet owners like you from irresponsible pet owners? It’s an academic question, because in the status quo, it’s all left to individual choice anyway. This logic is working great with guns and CO2 emissions, right? Not long ago, I realized that a cat owned by friend of mine, who roams around outside, was unfixed for probably a year. This guy works in conservation and he certainly knew better, but had irrational hangups about chopping off his cat’s balls, and thought it would be cruel to make the cat stay indoors. The numbers of litters this one cat could have produced is insane. I have a similar story about another friend, who also works in conservation, and is very ashamed to have contributed to the feral cat population.

        And then there are the pigs…

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