Maui County's administration has asked the Maui Humane Society to develop a response to the feral chicken problem that a county official said may be a "mild nuisance" now but could be "something worse" if it's not addressed soon.
County spokesman Rod Antone said there have been a small number of complaints to the administration about feral chickens running around but said problems appeared to be on the rise.
He pointed out that last month Maui Electric Co. reported a chicken getting into one of its transformers and causing a power outage at Kahului Airport and some neighboring businesses.
Antone said that one complaint even involved a neighborhood dispute between a resident who was feeding the chickens and another who wanted to get rid of them.
"Right now the feral chickens are a mild nuisance, but we would like the Humane Society to take a look at how to mitigate the problem before it becomes something worse," Antone wrote in an email last week.
Maui Humane Society Chief Executive Officer Jocelyn Bouchard agrees that the problem of feral chickens is getting worse.
"It's definitely been a problem in certain areas for, gosh, I say 10 years. (But) it's becoming more of an everywhere sort of problem."
Although in an "Ask The Mayor" column item in The Maui News on March 11, the county administration said it is including money in the upcoming fiscal 2014 budget to address the feral chicken problem. Bouchard said that, as she understands it, the county administration is seeking to bring the Maui Humane Society's contract services funding back to 2009 levels, after funding dropped over the years.
She confirmed that the county's proposed budget for the Humane Society's contract services, which includes law enforcement regarding animals and running a shelter, will go up from $1.4 million for fiscal 2013 to $1.6 million for fiscal 2014. But, Bouchard said, no funds are strictly set aside or earmarked to address the feral chicken issue, although she understands that the county would like the Humane Society to begin to address the problem.
Antone said in an email: "The County of Maui is proposing to increase the budget for the Maui Humane Society for Fiscal Year 2014 by $195,000. We have asked that the Humane Society direct a portion of that increase toward developing a response to our feral chicken problem."
Bouchard said that if there are funds left over or if there are low-cost ways that the Humane Society can start addressing feral chickens, then perhaps the agency can go ahead with trying to solve the problem.
But she said it doesn't seem likely that the Humane Society will receive any funds specifically dedicated to address the feral chicken issue, and added that if any funds are taken from the agency's allocated budget, it's going to have an impact on existing programs.
She said that the agency has been struggling with a decline in funding over the years and had to use its private donations as well as funds from investments to come up with the difference.
"Our plan at this point in time is to spend a year with coming up with a specific plan" to address the feral chicken issue, Bouchard said.
The Maui County Council will still need to examine the Mayor Alan Arakawa administration's budget proposal, so no amount of funding is set yet for the Humane Society's county contracted programs.
In examining the feral chicken problem, Bouchard said that she will be taking a look at how Kauai has dealt with the issue over the years.
Bouchard said that she has already learned that trying to catch a chicken in a cat trap won't work, as chickens won't likely walk into a trap as cats do.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.