When I asked friends if they had any personal anecdotes about Kauai’s wild roosters and hens for my book, Kauai Stories, they came pouring in.
Chickens — as they are commonly called in Hawaii, regardless of whether they are male or female – originally arrived on our shores more than 1,000 years ago, introduced by Polynesian explorers who brought them in their sailing canoes for food. Kauai’s fowl population is far larger than on the other Hawaiian islands because the mongoose, a natural predator, does not live here. Hurricanes in 1982 and 1992 further spread the poultry population, tossing flimsy rooster shelters and distributing the birds hither and yon.
All history aside, Kauai’s chickens make for some humorous encounters. Here are some of my favorite chicken nuggets:
I once had a pet chicken named Mable who kept me company when I worked from an office in my home. Mable would sometimes hunker down on my shoulder and preen my hair while I was on the phone. One day I was wearing only my bathrobe, negotiating challenging contract terms with the president of a large hotel company over the telephone, when Mable took a big poop down my back.
I immediately stripped off my robe but stayed at my desk buck naked until I finished my phone call. When I finally got off the phone, I started to laugh and couldn’t stop.
About a year later, I bumped into the man I had been speaking with on the phone that day. He asked me, “Are you OK now? Last time I talked with you, you sounded a little stressed.” He lived in Hawaii so I told him the story and we shared big laugh.
Our son, John, raised all kinds of animals while growing up on Kauai. On many occasions unbeknownst to me, he would catch little chicks at Lydgate Park and sneak them home in our car. One of his favorites was a rooster he named KFC. When KFC was just a chick, John would put him in our rabbit Nalu’s cage where KFC loved cuddling up to his surrogate mom. Even as a fully-grown rooster who crowed obnoxiously in the wee hours, KFC always gravitated back to Nalu’s cage as his home.
When I first moved to Kauai more than 20 years ago, my then-husband, Herman, our neighbors and I thought if we could trap and remove an extremely loud rooster we had nicknamed Rambo, we would have quiet nights.
One morning, our neighbor, Hans, proudly announced he had caught and disposed of Rambo. But at 2 o’clock the next morning, Rambo’s unmistakable crows let us know he was still alive and well. A few mornings later, our neighbor Mike told us he was sure he had gotten Rambo with a shot in the night, and that he had seen Rambo lying in the yard. Rambo was nowhere to be seen that day. But sure enough, at 2 a.m., Rambo again announced his full life.
Finally Herman went out in the dark one night and took his shot, absolutely positive he had dispatched Rambo for good. Unable to find the body, we waited for the ear-splitting nightly crowing. When it came, we all agreed that Rambo had earned his name for his ability to survive, and his right to continue to rule our neighborhood continued for many years.
Love in the Walmart parking lot
Dr. John Wichert
It all happened in less than 40 seconds. Traffic in the Walmart parking lot halted from three directions. Drivers seemed paralyzed, not knowing whether to remain stopped, honk their horns or go forward in the hopes the lovers would move. Customers entering and leaving the front door stopped in their tracks, some giggling and covering their mouths. There was a brief public sense that this moment of fowl intimacy should not be interrupted.
A young boy innocently asked his dad, “Is that a cock fight?”
“You might say that,” came the father’s mumbled reply.
Delivering a strong elbow jab to her husband’s ribs, the boy’s mother said, “Only on Kauai.”
And then, as fast as it began, it was over.
Back when I lived in a shack under a mango tree in Moloaa, there were many free-range chickens running around. When I’d come home, they would normally scatter as I approached them in my car.
One time, I pulled into the driveway late at night and saw many chickens in the headlights, sitting on the ground, not moving, but not dead and not getting out of the way like they usually do. They were just kind of paralyzed, seemingly stunned by the headlight glare. I had to get out of the car and actually push them out of the way. In doing so I noticed many over-ripe, half-rotten, half-eaten mangoes also on the ground. Evidently those chickens had become quite intoxicated from eating the rotten mangoes. At daybreak the chickens were gone but it was a strangely quiet morning.
• Pamela Varma Brown is the publisher “Kauai Stories,” a collection of 50 humorous, touching and inspiring stories in the words of Kauai’s people. She is seeking Kauai ghost stories and humorous “island car” stories for her new book, “Kauai Stories 2.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 651-3533.