In my area of the island of Maui, there is a lady known as The Chicken Lady. She is a good friend of mine. There are probably several so-called chicken ladies here, but I’m talking about the one in Kihei.
Kihei is the Waikiki of Maui, more or less. There are subdivisions with houses and roads, but there are also many condominiums for tourists. Amid all the touristry-related shops and condominium buildings, there are small segments of Kihei that have forests and meadows. These areas look pristine just like in the days when Maui royalty and young warriors walked this little spot of earth.
But here in 2010, and for the past several years, every day at 5:00 p.m., my friend drives along a lower road in Kihei and turns left onto a road which name I shall not divulge, but I will say it runs parallel to — and between — Uwapo Road and Kanani Road. There is forest on each side of this road — as there are on many of the lower roads in Kihei. The Black-Crowned Night Herons and the Hawaiian Stilt birds share the top of the forest canopy between dusk and dawn, but during the day they fly to fresh water ponds several blocks away. My friend parks where the forest begins on the right shoulder of the road facing the mountains — in other words, heading mauka. The Red Junglefowl live here and the other side of the road, too. Red Junglefowl (gallus gallus) live throughout the island of Maui and the other Hawaiian Islands. They are of the pheasant family and originally were in India, Sri Lanka and southeastern Asia. They have now been on the Hawaiian Islands for centuries They have been on the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. The males are colorful with red feathers on their heads and chest. The males have violet and turquoise tail feathers. The hens are various beige and brown shades which camouflage them well.
It is quite a sight to see as she arrives, driving 15-20 miles per hour in her little red car. The chickens and the chicks on the right side of the road see her coming, so they start to run forward to meet her. She has to drive past them and then swerve to the right shoulder so she doesn’t run down the thirsty, hungry little chicks or their mothers. There can be an identical red car ahead of her by two blocks before she arrives, yet the chickens just stand there and wait. They know the unique sound of her car. When they see her car a block away and verify to themselves that it’s her car engine they are hearing, they and their little chicks run forward. The roosters hang back and watch.
People drive by and some give a cheer for the racing hens and the little chicks. Random male drivers in pick-up trucks speed by, some hanging on to their steering wheels with a right elbow and a right wrist, their heads stuck at a weird angle out the driver’s door window, obscenities spewing from their mouths and then they yell, “Crazy Chicken Lady.” It seems that the weirdest men on Maui have something against the survival of the Junglefowl. They also appear to intensely dislike any middle-aged woman in a baggy, feeding-the-chickens-kine dress and hair up in a bun or maybe it’s just this one middle-aged woman they dislike. My friend ignores the cheers and the jeers.
She has told her friends — when they have asked — that she mainly goes to place fresh water in containers for the fowl because they are thirsty. As soon as she pours the water, they run to get their first sips of water for the day. She knows that Junglefowl can forage bugs from the forest’s floor, but she feels sorry for the chickens, chicks and roosters if they don’t have water in this humid, hot weather. And, she reasons, since she’s there anyway, she might as well throw a little chicken scratch their way.
She has to be agile when she arrives. She stops the car and very quickly pulls the lever beside the driver’s seat to open the trunk. She grabs her gallon-size jug of water sitting in the passenger’s seat, leaps out of the car, runs to the back of the car, throws the trunk door up, scoops out a bowlful of chicken scratch, throws the contents to the fowl to her right, then refills the bowl and jogs across the street with chicken scratch in one hand and a heavy jug of water in the other. That’s how it all goes when everything goes right.
If there is traffic coming, she can’t cross, so she has to yell at the chickens and roosters across the street to stay there. They are quite miffed that the chickens on the right side of the road always get fed first. There are usually little chicks to feed on the right side of the road and if the mother hens don’t get fed fast, they run towards the middle of the road with their broods squeaking and peep-peeping close behind.
There is one rooster on the left side of the road that someone dropped there recently and he will not wait an extra second if my friend can’t jog immediately across the road. This rooster is not a Junglefowl. He is some sort of mainland variety and very intent on being the first one she greets. Often, my friend has to stop traffic by putting her arm and hand up in the air so she can get to the other side very quickly as the rooster is already half way across. Once she gets to the other side, he follows her there and tries to get in front of her to beg to be petted. She doesn’t pet him. She throws chicken scratch for him, but he ignores it at first and follows her as she rinses water bowls, refills the water bowls and throws chicken scratch for the waiting fowl. These, then, are the techniques and simple strategies my friend uses to feed and water the Junglefowl in her little corner of Maui: Give them water, give them a little food and give them kindness for the short time they are able to enjoy life. And do whatever can be done to protect them from the roadway they chose to live beside long before she arrived on Maui. Toward this purpose, she places the water bowls and chicken scratch through the tall fence to the forest side.
For some reason, there is rarely a chick to be seen on the left side of the road, although lately there has been one. It’s difficult to say why the chicks on the left side of the road don’t survive more than one or two days, but the chicks on the right side of the road do.
Teenaged Junglefowl roosters go missing from either side of the road every once in awhile, too. There are more than 30 cats on each side of the road who are fed by their colony caretakers, a man and wife team, every night after dark. But there are other predators in the forest also. They are men and their sons who set snares every month or two to catch young roosters and take them home. These men raise young roosters to adulthood so they can place the defenseless birds in rooster fights. With the snares the men set, they sometimes inadvertently catch hens and chicks. They let them go, most likely, when they come for their snared young male birds. Sadly, many cats have been caught in the plastic fishing-reel string, too. Most of the cats die from starvation and suffering. I know of one cat that chewed its paw off and was found by a cat caretaker, checked out at the Maui Humane Society and given a clean bill of health. That’s a rare happy story in the forests of snared victims.
There are also instances where moms and dads go into the forests together and manage to catch or net a few young hens for the sake of taking them home to join their backyard hens and ruling rooster. There is poverty on Maui, so this is an understandable self-sustaining decision of a family and I don’t think people are predators who simply want to feed their families by gaining a few more laying hens.
But the men who arrive in their big pick-up trucks with their young, impressionable sons and screech their tires, leaving, when my friend arrives; these are the people I call predators. The police on Maui can easily see who these rooster-fighting men are because they have blue barrels set up in their yards with roosters chained beside the upside-down blue barrels. If there is one family on Maui who has this kind of set-up and they are actually just raising roosters for the purpose of selling them to people who raise hens, I apologize in advance. This may be the case in some few instances throughout the islands and they are exempted from the description I give now. There is not a particular ethnicity here in the Hawaiian Islands that believe it is their cultures’s right — as Georgie Fong of Haiku puts it — to enslave, imprison and kill the roosters; no, there are many who believe it is their right. Of course, not all people within those ethnicities are supportive of rooster fighting. I don’t know of any surveys to show if the supporters of rooster-fighting in each ethnicity are the minority or whether they are the majority. If such surveys have been done, I would like to learn the results of such surveys.
SO WHAT ABOUT THIS ROOSTER FIGHTING?
Bets are made behind the scenes. The place of the next rooster-fighting event is planned. How many police officers in the Maui Police Department know about the event ahead of time and choose not to attend and not to arrest those involved, but instead turn a blind eye? I do not know. How many police officers in the Maui Police Department (and other police departments across the Hawaiian Islands) make bets themselves on this so-called sport? I do not know. I hope the answer is none. But the events are held regularly. Two roosters are drugged into a state of aggression. Razor blades are strapped on to their legs and they are forced to begin their fight to the death. This is pure, unadulterated cruelty to animals. Also, it is negligence of parents to children if some of these parents actually take their children or teenagers to the rooster-fights. But that latter statement may only be my opinion. The former statement is not opinion. Cockfighting is a misdemeanor under Hawaii State Law, punishable by a maximum fine of $2000 and one year in prison.
In April of this year, a resolution was passed (HCR277) which supports cockfighting as a cultural activity. The resolution was introduced by three representatives stating that cockfighting is a national sport in the Philippines and a “cherished tradition in many cultures throughout the world.” There was great opposition by animal groups to the resolution. The Maui Humane Society’s spokesperson, for instance, stated that cockfighting is not cultural and is a cruel crime. It is hard to believe that the resolution was passed, but it was — due to the House Tourism, Culture and International Affairs Committee’s consideration.
The resolution does not give any person in Hawaii any legal right to carry out this cruelty. Cockfighting is still illegal here on Maui and throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
The other day at the airport as I was boarding a plane, the back of a man’s T-shirt caught my eye. There was an image of a beautiful rooster silkscreened onto the T-shirt. The wording said, “Cockfighting is NOT illegal. It’s our culture.”
My friend feels the least she can do is give the Junglefowl some water and food every evening before sunset, so she puts up with the verbal abuse. If she is ever spat upon — and she figures that’s probably going to be the next phase — she says her strategy then will be to make her ‘chicken run’ an early morning errand instead of an afternoon delight. She wishes she could do more.
Copyright owned by Pamela K. Williams