Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2005

Wrangling the wild chicken

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAIAHOLE — Two husband-and-wife teams have spent $40,000 out of their pockets in the past 18 months to round up more than 700 feral chickens and roosters from rural and urban neighborhoods throughout O'ahu but wonder how much longer they can keep up the expense while the population of scattered fowl continues to grow.

Pat Royos, left, and Bernie Panoncial use a trap to catch chickens running wild in neighborhoods. The feral fowl can be noisy and messy, and annoyed residents call the volunteers to remove them.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Chicken breeders Pat and Jose Royos, and Bernie and Joe Panoncial — she's a teacher's aide and he's a construction worker — have taken on the role of volunteer trappers and have answered the call of duty whenever they've been contacted to haul away another rooster or hen.

So far, they say, they've captured 64 chickens in Alii Plantation, 51 in Papakolea, 39 in 'Alewa Heights at two locations, 20 in 'Aiea Heights and 14 in Waikele. And they've trapped more than 500 in areas from Diamond Head to Wai'anae and from Kailua to La'ie.

The teams go only where they are invited and this week their traps are in La'ie, where residents hope to snare some of the 100 or more feral chickens grazing in the neighborhood around Moana Street.

But it's becoming more difficult to keep up with all the calls for service.

"We're not complaining or anything, but they have to find a solution because it's getting harder for us," Pat Royos said. "The gas costs money and we do a lot of traveling from one end to the other."

Who to call

To have wild chickens picked up, call Bernie Panoncial at 429-9573 or fax 239-1831.

During City Council hearings on a bill to ban roosters from Pearl City to Hawai'i Kai in 2003 — a bill that never moved forward — city officials expressed frustration at all the complaints about the noise and mess of feral chickens. Once the Humane Society stopped responding to complaints about feral chickens — instead providing traps and having an official offer instructions on how to use them — the calls went to police.

Members of the nonprofit Hawaii Game Breeders Association urged the council to hold off on the ban and to allow them to educate rooster owners.

That's when Pat Royos and Bernie Panoncial stepped in and offered their services.

"The police are already overburdened and didn't need another responsibility," City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said. "These women stepped forward and said they could help. They have been a solution."

Kobayashi said $40,000 was allotted in the budget last year to pay some of the cost of trapping and education, but she believed the money went to the Hawaiian Humane Society. However, Jacque Smith, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said the agency doesn't think the money was ever released.

The Humane Society continues to take chickens brought to its shelter and will try to find them homes with farms and sanctuaries, Smith said.

Kobayashi now wants the money to go to the two teams, saying, "We'll do whatever it takes to make sure the money goes to the people who are providing the solution."

Royos said she had hoped her involvement would be temporary and that the city would come up with a better solution.

So far, their work has paid off a bit. For example, Bonnie Huff of La'ie said she was happy to reimburse the trappers for their cage and removal service.

Although La'ie is considered rural, Huff lives in a residential area surrounded by house lots. She caught about 17 chickens and then passed the trap to another neighbor, who caught more birds. But children in the neighborhood were releasing the birds before they could be picked up.

Huff said she understands that some people like the chickens, but worries about what may be picked up from the feral ones.

"The potential for disease is there," Huff said. "Any time you have a bunch of wild things around, there's a potential for disease."

Mona Enos, 21, has been feeding the wild chickens at her home in La'ie since she was a child. Enos said she resents it when kids burst into her yard to catch the birds, but doesn't object if the fowl are caught outside her property.

"They're part of the family," Enos said. "We don't like it when someone comes and catches them."

Bernie Panoncial estimates that she and her partners have spent about 2,000 hours in the past 18 months trapping 733 chickens, an effort that has cost them approximately $40,000. Lately, she said, the Hawaii Game Breeders Association has been asking for donations to offset the cost.

Panoncial said she believes many of the wild chickens were once cute little chicks in Easter baskets. Once the chicks reach a juvenile stage they become gangly and ugly.

"They'll drive to a deserted area in anybody's community and let them run wild," she said. "It is a nuisance but it's not the chickens' fault. We just feel they deserve to be caught to be taken care of instead of being exterminated."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.