And we thought St Helena had it bad enough, with a few goats getting on the government’s butt. And cats. Okay, and a vast number of rats.
In Bermuda, an entirely different species has gone wildly out of control, and officials are laying eggs about it.
The shadowy London Reader – who alerts the St Helena media to goings-on in the British overseas territories – has followed up this website’s story about stray goats with a tip-off about feral chickens. Yes, chickens.
They’ve adopted a liberal interpretation of the term, “free range”, with a dash of free love thrown in.
Feral fowl is not unknown in Half Tree Hollow, reports islander John Turner (see comment, below), but Bermuda, which is ever so slightly smaller than St Helena, has 30,000 of the feathered fiends. They’re a bit of a nuisance.
Especially as some of them are males, and insist on crowing at sunrise. That’ll be effect of the free love.
The Bermuda Sun website notes that hens reach breeding age at five weeks, after which each on can produce eight to 15 chicks every 20 weeks.
“That means a single hen can lead to the creation of up to 198 new feral birds every year,” writes senior reporter Raymond Hainey.
It’s a long-standing problem, made worse in 1987 when Hurricane Emily smashed many of the island’s chicken coops. It was as if someone had shouted, “Scramble!”
Feral chickens simply don’t respect property boundaries, says a government statement.
They’re playing havoc on the golf courses, apparently.
Public works minister Michael Weeks says: “The problem of feral chickens may seem trivial to some. However, to the many residents who are affected, they are a very real nuisance.
“Concerns range from crowing roosters causing sleepless nights and the spreading of trash, to significant economic crop and garden damage, attacks on park users and hotel guests, destruction of threatened habitats in our nature reserves, as well as salmonella and bird flu.”
It’s so serious that several government ministries have joined forces to try to wipe out the birds, having established that harnessing them for meat or eggs, or to turn their feathers into plastics, would cost too much to be worthwhile. Half of them don’t even lay eggs: they’re male.
St Helena Government is considering putting up the fine for letting goats stray, from 25p to £250. That’s nothing: Bermudians who let their captive birds roam free face a potential fine of nearly $3,000.
Islanders are advised to report any chicken infestations – and presumably, watch where they tread.
Actually we have quite a lot of feral chickens here. I hear several cocks crowing each morning and there is nobody near us that keeps chickens. You also see them roaming in Casons and elsewhere, some distance from any houses. And that’s just at our end of the island. There are a few apparently-feral broods in Half Tree Hollow too.
I don’t know if anyone has done a census on wild poultry.
Maybe they don’t actually eat wirebirds, but they must be competition for food. Maybe we need a Dogs & Cats & Chickens Ordinance?
– John Turner, St Helena
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