The Great Pacific Chicken Coop

Of the four major islands of Hawaii, Kawaii is the least inhabited, the most untamed.  The beauty of this island is wild and fierce like a warrior goddess, and can only be truly appreciated from the air. 


The humidity gets very high in the rainy season, the skies open wide and the rain pours down non-stop for days on end.  These tons of water give Kawaii the exuberance sought by Hollywood, among others, and captured in movies like South Pacific and Gerasic Park. 


There is another natural feature that is not so welcome in Kawaii: chickens.  Yes, chickens, especially the roosters that crow at all hours of the morning, especially the very early morning, and continue throughout the day.  You can see the chickens everywhere, on the roads, at hotel lobbies, even in restaurants.  And let me tell you, those chickens are smart.


The bus driver was parking at the site of our first visit in the island, when David said to me: “I can see lots of chickens under the vegetation.”  As the people got off the bus, David continued to watch the chickens and noticed that they were coming out from under the large, beautiful leaves  and grouping near the bus.  A thought crossed my mind and I said to David: “I think these guys come out when they see a tour bus because people give them food!”  And I decided that I was going to be one of those tourists. 


We got out of the bus and I rummaged in my big purse looking for the series of small packages of pretzels and other snacks that David and I had been collecting.  I could feel the proximity of the chickens and hear the cackle of the hens and roosters and the chirping of the little chicks.  It had been so many years since I was close to chickens and heard their sounds.  As I stood there by the bus with David and our young driver, this big group of chickens took me back to Puerto Rico and my beloved big beautiful backyard, where my father had hens and roosters, and where many chicks were hatched and grew up.  I felt comforted and nostalgic all at once.  I was feeling the sadness that comes from a life that will never be repeated, the joy of having lived that life, and the gratitude for the way I was feeling at the moment. 


As I shared my memories and feelings with David and John, our bus driver, I proceeded to open the little packages of crackers and pretzels and slowly crush them and drop them for the chickens.  Despite the fact that it was totally unnecessary, I could not refrain from calling the chickens the way my parents taught me in Puerto Rico.  I was having a ball as I scattered the food about so that all the chickens could get some of it.  David commented about the way in which the adult chickens stepped unceremoniously on the little chicks as they all ran to get the food. 


John came over to us and handed something to David, then David said to me: “Here”, signaling to me that he was handing what he had to me in turn.  I was delighted to have in my hands one of the chiks.  I asked John how in the world did he manage to grab the chick without being charged by the mother hen.  “The hen is busy trying to get food, so I went around and grab the chick when she was not looking”, he explained.  I will have to say here that I found this to be strange behavior from both the mother hen and the chick.  Once, in my big beautiful backyard, I tried to take a chick so I could hold it for a little bit.  Well, I was able to grab the chick because the mother hen was distracted somewhere else.  Immediately, the chick started to chirp its distress call at very high decibels, and the next thing I know, there was this hen running towards me, ready for war.  I do not think I have to tell you here that I dropped the chick and ran into the house faster than I can type these lines! 

Well, I guess the chickens in Kawaii are different because the chick did not give out a distress call and mother hen never came to its rescue.  When David placed the chick in my hands, I noticed that it was immobile, and I said: “I think this chick is sick, it is so listless.”  “No, it is just scared”, explained John.  But very soon the chick felt less frightened in my hands. 

It was such a wonderful feeling for me to hold this tiny ball of little soft feathers!  I opened one of its wings so I could feel it.  Regrettably, I was handling the chick far too softly, and my hold on it was too loose, so the little one was able to slip from my hands, jump on my shoulder and then jump off very quickly.  I wish I had been able to hold the chick for longer.  Still, I am glad for the brief moment I had. 


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