The Surprising Origins of Hawaii's Feral Chickens

Genetic tests reveal where they came from.

Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:40 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 06:04 GMT
Photograph by MARIE MAGEE
This story appears in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Thousands of feral chickens inhabit Kauai, but their origin was long a mystery. Did they descend from red jungle fowl that Polynesians brought to Hawaii some 1,000 years ago or from farmed birds that flew the coop more recently? According to genetic tests, a mix of both, says biologist Eben Gering. Breeding these feral chickens with domestic ones could add welcome genetic diversity and make farm-raised fowl hardier, he says.

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