Feral Chickens in the Pacific Islands

As I was visiting Pacific islands such as Tahiti, Samoa and Hawaii for the first time, it struck me that there are feral (wild) chickens all over; both in the countryside and in the towns. No-one feeds them regularly and they survive on their own in the same way that Pigeons and House Sparrows do.

Feral Chickens

How did they get here?

In ancient times the islands scattered along the north shore of New Guinea first drew canoe people eastwards into the ocean.

Feral Chickens

By 1500 B.C., these voyagers began moving east beyond New Guinea. As the gaps between islands grew from tens of miles at the edge of the western Pacific to hundreds of miles along the way to Polynesia, and then to thousands of miles in the case of voyages to the far corners of Polynesia.

Feral Chickens

These oceanic colonizers developed great double-hulled vessels capable of carrying colonists as well as all their supplies, domesticated animals, and planting materials.

Feral Chicken

As the voyages became longer, they developed a highly sophisticated navigation system based on observations of the stars, the ocean swells, the flight patterns of birds and other natural signs to find their way over the open ocean.

Feral Chickens

Included in their cargo were domestic chickens and, over time, many became wild.

Feral Chicken
Feral Chickens
Feral Chickens
Feral Chicken
Feral Chickens
Feral Chicken

Miles Hearn

3 thoughts on “Feral Chickens in the Pacific Islands

  1. Russell Parker

    I am making a study of the ancient human/chicken migrations across south west pacific and your feral chicken comments and pics are of great interest to me.

    It would be even more useful for my work if you could please list which island each photo of chickens came from.
    thanking you
    Russell Parker

    Reply
  2. steve

    Those are not all decendents of junglefowl introduced by ancient polynesian voyagers. You can tell by looking at the birds that there has been significant introgression of more modern chickens in the last century or so. Chickens are moved all over the place for cock fighting and, occasionally, for meat and egg production breeds.

    Reply
  3. Russell Parker

    Thanks for that. Yes I understand there was introgression with modern chickens and there is no way I can prove what happened when or where because of there being so many different travelers in the Pacific over the centuries. The 100 photos I have of the skins taken by Whitney expeditions were from the 1920s/30s and some before that show distinct plumage colour variations for each island. That of course only supports the introgression theory but nothing can be certain without extensive DNA sampling.
    Even the types of junglefowl which were at the two departure points which I am studying through the samples, 3000 years ago and 1200 years ago, were probably not pure original red junglefowl, but a mixture of whatever junglefowl varieties which had emerged from the previous 7000/10000 years before, that were onsite each time.
    No one in the world who I have contacted can tell me for certain though what caused the various colours to emerge differently on each island, was it mutations or cross breeding with modern chickens.
    There will be many nice surprises if I ever get the DNA done because for example Marquesas are a possible Sth American link and also to Japan and eve as the first port of call by Alvaro Mendana when he “discovered the Solomons. He had eaten all the SthAmerican chickens he had taken on board in Peru by the time he reached Marquesas and had chickens on board when he arrived in the Solomons. Information from one of his crew members shows that he exchange his chickens for some on Nendo Island!
    My idea is not only to find the points of origin of each skin as well as its “junglefowl purity” and reveal some of the ancient human (as well as modern) movement.
    Thank you for your information
    Russell Parker

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.