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My Chicken-Lady Friend of Maui
In my area on the island of Maui, there is a lady known as The Chicken Lady. She is my good friend. There are probably several so-called chicken ladies here, but I’m talking about the one in Kihei.
Kihei is the Waikiki of Maui, pretty much. There are subdivisions with houses and streets, but there are also many condominiums for tourists. In between all the tourism-related shops and condominium buildings, there are small sections of Kihei that have forests and grasslands. These areas look pristine as in the days when Maui kings and young warriors walked this small spot of land.
But here in 2010, and for the past several years, every day at 5:00 PM, my friend drives along a lower road in Kihei and turns left onto a road that I won’t name, but I will say that it is parallel to — and between — Uwapo Road and Kanani Road. There is forest on either side of this road — as are many of the lower roads in Kihei. Black-crowned Night-herons and Hawaiian Wood-legged birds share the forest canopy at dusk and dawn, but during the day they fly to freshwater ponds several blocks away. My friend parks where the woods begin on the right shoulder of the road overlooking the mountains — in other words, heading for Mauka. Red Junglefowl live here and across the road, too. Red Junglefowl (gallus gallus) live throughout the island of Maui and the other Hawaiian Islands. They belong to the pheasant family and were originally found in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. They have now been in the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. They have been in the Hawaiian Islands for centuries. Males are colorful with red feathers on their head and chest. Males have violet and turquoise tail feathers. Hens are various shades of beige and brown that camouflage them well.
It’s pretty cool to watch as she arrives, driving 15-20 miles an hour in her little red car. The chickens and chicks on the right side of the road see her coming, so they start running forward to meet her. He has to drive past them and then swerve onto the right shoulder to avoid running over the thirsty, hungry little chicks or their mothers. There may be an identical red car in front of her 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 confirm that it is her car engine they hear, they and their little chicks run ahead. The roosters hang back and watch.
People are passing by and some are cheering for the racing hens and little chickens. Random male truck drivers drive by, some hanging on to their steering wheels by right elbow and right wrist, their heads stuck at a weird angle outside the driver’s door window, obscenities spewing from their mouths, then yelling, “Crazy chickens”. It seems the strangest men on Maui have something against the Junglefowl’s survival. They also seem to strongly dislike any middle-aged woman in a baggy dress who feeds their chickens and hair in a bun, or maybe it’s just that middle-aged woman they dislike. My friend ignores the cheers and jeers.
She has told her friends — when asked — that she mostly goes to put fresh water in the birds’ bowls because they are thirsty. As soon as he pours the water, they run to get their first sips of water for the day. He knows the Junglefowl can forage in the forest, but he feels sorry for the chickens, chicks and roosters if they don’t have water in this wet, hot weather. And, he explains, since they’re there anyway, he might as well throw them some chicken.
She should be nimble when she arrives. He stops the car and very quickly pulls the lever next to the driver’s seat to open the trunk. She grabs the gallon jug of water sitting in the passenger seat, gets out of the car, runs to the back of the car, throws the tailgate open, pulls out a bowl of chicken scratch, throws the contents at the birds to her right , then refills the bowl and jogs across with the chicken scraps in one hand and a heavy jug of water in the other. That’s how everything goes when everything goes well.
If there’s traffic, he can’t get through, so he has to yell at the chickens and roosters across the street to stay there. They are very annoyed that the chickens on the right side of the road are always fed first. There are usually little chicks to feed on the right side of the road and if the mother hens don’t feed quickly, they run into the middle of the road with their chicks squawking and chirping behind.
There’s a rooster on the left side of the road that someone dropped there recently and he won’t wait a second if my friend can’t jog down the road immediately. This rooster is not a Junglefowl. It is a kind of mainland variety and is very intent on being the first to greet. Often my friend has to stop traffic by throwing her hand and arm in the air so she can get to the other side very quickly as the rooster is already halfway there. Once he reaches the other side, he follows her there and tries to get in front of her to beg to be petted. She doesn’t caress him. She throws him chicken scratch, but he ignores it at first and follows her as she rinses the water bowls, refills the water bowls, and throws chicken scratch for the waiting bird. So these 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 some food, and give them kindness for the short time they will be able to enjoy life. And do what you can to protect them from the path they chose to live next to her long before she came to Maui. Toward this end, he places the water bowls and chicken scratch through the tall fence toward the forest side.
For some reason, a chick is rarely seen on the left side of the road, although lately it has been. It’s hard to say why the chicks on the left side of the road don’t survive more than a day or two, but the chicks on the right side of the road do.
Juvenile Junglefowl roosters disappear from both sides of the road every now and then. There are more than 30 cats on each side of the road that are fed by their colony caretakers, a husband and wife team, every night after dark. But there are other predators in the forest. They are men and their sons who set traps 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 cockfights. With the traps men set, they sometimes catch the hens and chicks unwittingly. They let them go, probably, when they come for the male birds that have been trapped. Unfortunately, many cats have been caught in the plastic fishing line. Most of the cats die of starvation and suffering. I know of a cat that chewed on her paw and was found by a cat groomer, checked out at the Maui Humane Society and given a clean bill of health. This is a rare happy story in the woods of trapped victims.
There are also cases where moms and dads go out into the woods together and manage to catch or net some young hens to take home to join their backyard hens and their master rooster. There is poverty on Maui, so this is an understandable self-preservation decision by a family, and I don’t think people are predators who just want to feed their families by getting a few more egg-laying hens.
But the men who arrive in their big trucks with their young, impressionable sons and screech their tires, driving away when my friend arrives. these are the people i call predators. The police in Maui can easily see who these cockfighters are because they have blue barrels set up in their yards with roosters chained next to the upside-down blue barrels. If there is a family on Maui that has this type of setup and is actually just raising roosters with the intention of selling them to people who raise hens, I apologize in advance. This may occur in some cases in all the islands, and they are excluded from the description I now give. There is no particular ethnic group here in the Hawaiian Islands who believe it is their cultural right to — as Haiku’s Georgie Fong puts it — enslave, imprison, and kill roosters. No, there are many who believe it is their right. Of course, not all people support these ethnicities. I am not aware of any research that shows whether cockfighting supporters in each ethnicity are the minority or the majority. If such investigations have been made, I would like to know the results of such investigations.
SO WHAT ABOUT THIS WAR COOSTER?
Bets are made behind the scenes. The location of the next cockfighting event is being planned. How many officers in the Maui Police Department know about the incident in advance and choose not to attend and 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 in the Hawaiian Islands) bet 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 in a state of aggression. Razors are tied to their legs and forced to begin their fight to the death. This is pure, unadulterated animal cruelty. It is also parental negligence towards children if some of these parents actually take their children or teenagers to the cockfights. But that last statement may just be my opinion. The preceding statement is not an opinion. Cockfighting is a misdemeanor under Hawaii law, punishable by a maximum fine of $2000 and one year in jail.
In April of this year, a resolution was passed (HCR277) supporting cockfighting as a cultural activity. The resolution was introduced by three representatives stating that cockfighting is a national sport in the Philippines and a “beloved tradition in many cultures around the world.” There was a lot of opposition from animal groups to the resolution. The representative of the Maui Humane Society, for example, stated that cockfighting is not cultural and is a cruel crime. It’s hard to believe that the resolution passed, but it is due — under consideration by the House Committee on Tourism, Culture and International Affairs.
The resolution does not give any person in Hawaii any legal right to commit 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, my eye was drawn to the back of a men’s shirt. There was a picture of a beautiful rooster screen printed on the t-shirt. The wording read, “The cockfighter is NOT illegal. He’s ours civilization.”
My friend feels the least she can do is give Junglefowl some water and food every evening before sunset, so she puts up with the verbal abuse. If she ever gets spat out — and she thinks that will probably be the next phase — she says her strategy then will be to make the “chicken run” an early morning chore instead of an afternoon treat. He wishes he could do more.
Copyright by Pamela K. Williams
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