• by Dr. Jim Carey

If Disney did chickens, they’d be Maui chickens.

Wild Chickens on Maui
A Maui Rooster

Arrogant, independent, decidedly territorial, and, OK, cocky, Maui’s 20,000 or so chickens – I can’t imagine who’s counting – Maui’s chickens rank right up there with snorkeling trips and luaus as tourist magnets, and are the scourge of locals wanting to sleep in.

Like seagulls in cities or rabbits in public parks, these animals thrive in semi-natural environments, making themselves right at home and presenting a multitude of challenges to their human neighbors.

Sophisticated urbanites fresh off the plane or cruise ship cluck over the chickens, pull out their phones and cluck click numerous – numerous! – photos. Perhaps the only chickens they know come with bar codes? Maui chickens are the quintessential, “Hey, Heather, look at that!” moment for visitors.

A visiting friend did a double take one night during dinner at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

“That thing’s alive,” he whispered, watching one of the resident chickens scratch around under an adjoining table. “It’s not one of those Disney animatronic things, is it?”

chicken crossed the road

Nope, not a re-creation. Maui chickens do things a Disney chicken wouldn’t consider. The roosters crow all day, starting at 3 am. The chicks get smashed on the pavement by cars and scooters. They nest in trees, and they, well, they drop their business inside your convertible.

I didn’t know any of this when I first came to Maui. My sister was teaching high school on the island, and I agreed to visit her in Paia.

Some Family Backstory

When I was a kid my friends went to Band Camp, Baseball Camp, Football Camp, Clown Camp, Tennis Camp, Golf Camp, Indian Camp, Boy Scout Camp, etc. Since my Mom’s family were farmers in Canada, and my Dad’s family were farmers in Vermont, my sister and I went to Farm Camp.

Feeding the Chickens
Feeding Farm Chickens

During the Thanksgiving and Easter holidays we’d go to Canada and help with the harvest and planting, eh? In the summer we’d go to Vermont and help out on one or another uncles’ dairy farms. Wherever we went, the kids fed the chickens, rounded up eggs, and fed the other farm ‘critters, along with a myriad of other chores.

Since our cousins were doing it, we thought it was normal. Even fun.

Farm camp in Vermont meant getting up at 4 am and milking the cows, letting them out to pasture, then mucking out the stalls, tossing a bunch of hay around, feeding the chickens, hogs, goats and everything else, and then, around 3 pm, we were allowed to go play in the woods, as long as we were home an hour before sunset and brought the cows with us.

After evening milking we were allowed to watch TV, where we usually fell asleep during the first commercial.

bringing in the cows
Milking Time

Saturdays meant a trip to town after the morning milking, where we’d spend our 25 cent allowance on a movie, popcorn and candy (did I mention this was the 1950’s?). As long as we were home in time to get the cows in for evening milking, we were free all day.

Sundays were pretty good, too. Milking, then church, dinner on a different uncle’s farm, and home in time for milking.

So even though I grew up a city boy, I was pretty savvy about farm life. By the time I was 12 I learned through eavesdropping that various uncles were offering my parents as much as $40 for me to go to their Farm Camp for the summer, and $25 for my kid sister.

When I heard that my friends’ parents were paying $100 and more for them to go to summer camp, sometimes just for a few weeks, I figured those kids must be pretty lazy. It made me laugh.

Yeah, I was a gullible kid.

Anyhow, Back to Maui

Join us tomorrow for Episode Two of the story.

(or click on “Next >”, below)

Wild Chickens on Maui
A Feral Chicken on Maui – Police sketch based on a description by this writer.