Do Invasive Wild Chickens Roam Maui, Hawaii?


Whether you’re sleeping with your window open upcountry in Maui, or eating your Caesar chicken (sorry) salad outside on the tables at Costco, you will be an audience to the cute little chicken population that flaunts its freedom in the oddest of places.

The wild chickens of Maui are a popular topic among both locals and visitors alike, for different reasons. Feral chickens are often spotted near hotels and resorts, partaking in afternoon naps in shady trees or simply wandering around the streets, bothering patrons of outdoor restaurants and digging up gardens. What’s not to love?

The mighty feral chicken, Hawaii’s true state bird?

Where did the chickens on Maui come from?

There are wild chickens on Maui because they were introduced to the island by Polynesian settlers many centuries ago. The chickens, which are known as red junglefowl, were domesticated by the Polynesians and were an important food source for them.

Wild chickens roam around Maui and other Hawaiian islands because of storms that have freed (and continue to free) various breeds of domestic chickens that then mate with the original feral red junglefowl.

According to local lore, the hurricanes of 1982 (Iwa) and 1992 (Iniki) destroyed domestic coops, releasing domesticated chickens into the jungles, and they have adapted to living in the island’s tropical climate.

The wild chickens have become a common sight on Maui and can be found in many areas of the island.

Maui is not an Island of many predators that prey upon the chickens or their eggs, thus the wild chicken population grows.

Many tourists stop to take photos of the chickens so as to capture on film the answer to why the chicken crossed the road. Love them or hate them, the chickens and their inspirational freedom are now part of Maui’s allure.

Can you hunt and eat the wild chickens of Maui?

Considering food costs on Maui and the nuisance that feral chickens pose to locals and visitors alike, the thought may cross your mind to hunt the wild chickens on Maui and eat them up. It’s an intriguing prospect, but many visitors are unsure of the legality—or even safety—of such an undertaking.

Can you eat wild chickens in Maui? Theoretically, but it is not legal to eat wild chickens in Maui and the consumption of wild game is prohibited in Hawaii due to health concerns. But if you did eat one offered to you, you would find the chicken a bit more gamey than your store-bought chicken, but much more flavorful.

These feral chickens are lean, mean, poopin’ machines.

A wild chicken walking out of the Costco food court unscathed.

Are feral chickens in Hawaii dangerous or unsanitary?

Chickens can attack if they perceive danger or someone tries to separate hen and chicks, but most birds have no incentive to waste energy chasing anyone who poses little threat. Roosters are more aggressive and have been known to chase people for fun.

Wild chickens are arguably more nutritious than farmed specimens, and if you can find their eggs, harvesting them will give you free, high-quality protein.

Obviously, don’t eat a sickly looking chicken (or anything else, for that matter). Not that eating the feral chickens is allowed….

Local regulations and hunting chickens on Maui

The chickens that roam Maui are protected under the Hawaii Administrative Rules and Regulations, which state that it is illegal to hunt any native or non-native bird species without a permit. This includes chickens, as they are considered an introduced species.

Ok, so legally, hunting wild chickens on Maui is not permitted without a permit (makes sense). The exception is if you have a valid hunting license — then you may be able to hunt wild chickens on Maui with the permission of the landowner.

Shoot them with your camera instead

If you are looking for a unique outdoor experience on Maui, consider bird watching instead of hunting for wild chickens. Bird watching is a great way to observe the island’s wild birds in their natural glory without disturbing them indefinitely. You can also take photos or videos of the birds to share with friends and family back home. Win-win!

What to do about the wild chickens of Maui

There have been several ‘feral chicken management programs’ over the years to attempt to cull and control the chicken numbers across the Hawaiian islands, so if you accidentally hit one while it is crossing the road, you will not be fined.

As a general law of the land: if the chickens are on your land, you can do what you wish, as long as it is lawful (and it is a good idea to make sure what you want to do is legal, too).

If the birds are roaming wild on city or public property, it is the city’s jurisdiction and those laws apply.

But considering that the state has spent over $7000 to catch just 67 birds in past ‘feral chicken management programs,’ any birds you catch will be appreciated by the local taxpayers.

Other invasive species on Maui

Axis deer are another invasive species overrunning Maui’s pastures and forests and the governor has offered emergency disaster relief to ranchers devastated by the deer indiscriminately foraging. Maui is in the middle of ongoing efforts to control the growing deer population, and experts guess there are about 60,000 or more deer roaming Maui. 

The deer have ruined pasture forage and local vegetation and have started to migrate into agricultural and developed areas in search for water and food. 

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I like to share my travel experiences and save others some time, money, and effort in planning their own adventures.

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