Do chickens live in the wild?

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Chickens are descendants of the red junglefowl that live in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. So, if you consider junglefowl a chicken, then they are rampant in the wild.

The Red junglefowl
The Red junglefowl in Thailand.

As for whether or not what we know as domesticated chickens live in the wild, the answer is also yes if you define “living in the wild” as not being cared for by humans. There are feral chicken colonies all over the place. A few of the more interesting ones are in Hawaii, Louisiana, and California.

HAWAII

Thousands of once domesticated chickens have reverted to their wild state and now roam the Hawaiin island of Kauai. It’s thought that winds of Hurricane Iwa (1982) and Hurricane Iniki (1992) unintentionally relocated chickens from people’s backyards and into the forests. The Hawaii Audubon Society has confirmed that the feral chicken population increased in the years following both hurricanes.

Kauai's wild feral chickens
A lady feeding feral chickens in Kauai.

These chickens act as a local tourist attraction, however, many locals get annoyed with them. They can crow at all hours, interrupt traffic, invade peoples gardens, etc. Local businesses make the best of the situation and sell souvenirs of the islands “official” bird.

LOUISIANA

Residents in the 7th and 9th wards in New Orleans, Louisiana began to notice an increase in the feral chicken population shortly after Hurricane Katrina. What happened here is probably the same thing that happened in Hawaii. Unlike the Florida chickens, most residents here seem to enjoy the novelty. Residents often feed the chickens and chase off would be predators.

CALIFORNIA

The Hollywood Freeway chickens were a colony of feral chickens that lived under the Vineland Avenue off-ramp of the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles, California. No one knows for sure how they got there, but the general consensus is that they fell off an overturned poultry truck that crashed in 1969. Eventually, hundreds of the chickens were captured and relocated to a ranch in Simi Valley, California. However, the chickens that evaded capture began forming new colonies in surrounding areas. For example, there is currently a colony living under the Burbank ramp a couple of miles away.

INTERESTING FACTS
  1. A chicken with red earlobes will lay brown eggs and a chicken with white earlobes will lay white eggs.
  2. Chickens communicate with at least 24 different vocalizations.
  3. A chicken’s beak can bleed.
  4. Chickens are the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  5. Chickens understand that an object still exists when it is hidden, unlike young children.
  6. Mother hens communicate to their unborn babies and the babies chirp back through their shells.
INTERESTING VIDEO

INTERESTING REFERENCES
  1. LiveScience – Year of the Rooster: How Kauai’s Feral Chickens Do It
  2. CountrySideNetwork.com – Wild Chickens in Hawaii, California and the Florida Keys
  3. Wikipedia.org – Feral Chickens

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