Kaua‘i Humane Society now charging for chicken pickup

After three years of offering annoyed residents a free, humane alternative to shooting, darting and poisoning the island’s feathered friends, the Kaua‘i Humane Society is now charging a $5 fee for its chicken pickup service. The charge will offset the rising price of fuel and other costs in light of the program’s growing popularity, said KHS Executive Director Dr. Becky Rhoades.

Those dropping off birds at the Humane Society’s Lihu‘e facility, open seven days a week, can still do so at no charge.

Feral chickens, thought to be brought to Hawai‘i for illegal cockfighting, were spread far and wide by 1992’s Hurricane ‘Iniki. They have no natural predators on Kaua‘i — outside of humans and their motor vehicles — and have a wide variety of available food sources.

Mongoose populations prey on eggs and help keep wild chicken counts low on other Hawaiian Islands, Rhoades said. She compared the problem to New York City’s pigeon infestation.

As Kaua‘i’s rooster population has continued to grow, annoying residents with their apparent inability to tell time and propensity for crowing at all hours of day and night, so, too, has demand for the pickup service.

The new fees will help balance the costs of staff working with the chickens, euthanization drugs used on the chickens and the operation of the in-house crematorium used to dispose of the chicken remains.

Furthermore, the Humane Society will no longer be offering use of their homemade humane traps because another on-island humane trap provider, Koloa’s www.roostertrap.com, has taken hold.

Rhoades said she is not personally bothered by the birds and guessed that while half of the local community does find them to be a nuisance, the other half “loves them.”

However, she explained that moving the chickens is not a good solution.

“If we did that, we may transfer the problem somewhere else,” Rhoades said. “It’s hard to translocate animals, so we really don’t do that.”

While the animal control issue might be better addressed by the state departments of Agriculture or Health, the Humane Society has shouldered much of the burden because its goal is to reduce animal suffering whenever possible.

“It is not a means to control the population, just a way to address the nuisance, and that’s the only thing it is,” Rhoades said. “That’s the role we have played. It’s not a solution by any means.”

Once the chickens are trapped and brought to the Humane Society, they are injected with an overdose of sodium pentobarbital, an anaesthetic made specifically for euthanasia.

“It’s a fast procedure with a small needle and very trained hands,” Rhoades said. “It’s the most humane manner available today.”

The chickens are then placed in a covered dark box, where they fall asleep. Later, they are cremated. Rhoades estimates the program euthanizes around 1,500 chickens annually.

“It’s important because if chickens are not wanted or are a nuisance to somebody, we want to address the situation in a humane manner,” Rhoades said. “We don’t want to see chickens tortured or maimed or treated cruelly, so that’s why we offer the service.”

The Kaua‘i Humane Society is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. For more information, call 632-0610.

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