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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Birds of Paradise

(image from here)

I know what you're thinking.  "That's no bird of paradise, that's a chicken!"

Well... yes and no.  That's a Red Jungle Fowl, brought to the Hawai'ian islands by the colonizing Polynesians over 700 years ago.

Well not that particular chicken.  They don't live that long.

To my surprise and delight, after leaving my own flock behind on the mainland before we moved to Hawaii last week, there are chickens here.  Lots and lots of chickens - both domestic and feral fowl.

{That alliteration makes me giggle.}

The farm where we are working and living near Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawai'i has nearly 60 laying hens ranging in age from 4 months to 3 years.  They range around the farm between the coffee trees in mobile chicken tractors, eating grass, weeds and bugs and depositing nitrogen-rich manure.

This is a win-win for both the farmers and the chickens. And for anyone picking coffee in their vicinity, as they will strike up quite a banter with you, giving you all the daily news and gossip.  Papa Bear had them all cackling with glee over his silly jokes today.

The feral Red Jungle Fowl are found pretty much everywhere.  I understand they can be so prolific as to be problematic especially on some of the smaller islands. But on the Big Island, out in the country where we now reside, they're not really a nuisance from what I can tell.

We see them on the sides of the roads all of the time, usually a rooster with several hens in tow, strutting around their individual territories. I love listening to them, and the roosters are exceptionally colorful and always in charge.

When I'm really desperate for poultry affection, I can go sit in the coop with the 4-month old pullets, who are still peeping but just starting to cluck a little, and talk "chicken-talk" to them, and they chatter right back to me.

After just a few moments, I can feel myself start to relax a bit, and I start smiling over the silly things pullets will do.  Like try to peck the buttons off my pants.  They'll also eat the "hitchhiker" seeds off my pants legs. Which is funny AND beats picking them off by hand. 

Sometimes I bring them treats, like cracked macadamia nuts, or fresh snails pulled out of the squash patch.  These chickens eat like queens.  Papaya, avocado, banana, macadamia.  In addition to their regular rations of course.

And then inevitably, this goofy song pops into my head that Papa Bear likes to sing at random times.  If you've never heard it, YouTube it.  And giggle.

"May the bird of paradise fly up your nose!
May an elephant caress you with his toes
May your wife be plagued by runners in her hose
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose!"
~ Little Jimmy Dickens

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl enjoys chickens on the Big Island of Hawaii


Jess said...

Do the wild fowl cause any problems exposing the domestic ones to disease? I guess if they're in chicken tractors maybe they don't get too intimate with each other.

Victoria Strauser said...

That's a good question - I haven't heard of any issues like that but it certainly could exist.

Anonymous said...

@ Jess, it is more likely the other way around. DOmestic chickens can carry multiple diseases and sickness that could easily be transmitted to the wild fowls. They are more sensitive to infections, diseases, and viruses than domestic chicken which can kill them quickly if not cared for properly.

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