Feral chickens invaded a town during COVID-19. New Zealanders want it back

Feral chickens are shown in Titirangi, New Zealand, in 2019. Via Auckland Council

New Zealand may have just declared victory over the coronavirus, but the battle has only begun for 4,000 citizens who fear losing their tiny town to an old foe: the feral chicken.

Residents in the community of Titirangi, near Auckland, say they’ve been living on feral chicken time ever since about 30 of the wild birds moved in during lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19 earlier this year. Roosters wake them up every morning, clucking sounds disturb them at all hours and there’s chicken poop everywhere.

The messy birds have also attracted large rats that eat their leftovers.

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The poultry plague is an old nightmare for many of Titirangi’s 4,000 residents, who shelled out thousands to drive them away last year. An estimated 250 birds had flocked to the town in 2019, where they tore up neighbourhoods and attracted large rats, prompting public health concerns. Nearly all of them had been rounded up by October, but a few managed to elude capture and their numbers ballooned during the lockdown.

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The town has been fighting the chicken problem for years, local records show.

“Some people really hate them,” Greg Presland, chair of the Waitākere Ranges community board, told the Guardian. “It’s reignited old divisions in the village.”

Presland says a “kind-hearted local” has been feeding them for a long time, including during the lockdown.

“I know who it is and I can’t make her stop,” he said. “I’ve tried.”

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A few locals have taken to dealing with the chickens the old-fashioned way, by capturing them for food.

“Anyone hungry?” one local wrote on the Titirangi community Facebook page. “I have hunted and captured 3 golden chickens … Our deep fryer is broken, so these are uncooked.”

Chickens are shown at a man’s home in Titirangi, New Zealand, on May 21, 2020. Jim Mac/Facebook

“They’re part of the Titirangi community, I think,” one local woman told TVNZ last week.

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“Chickens are going crazy, man,” another local man said, adding that the birds went after his young son.

“I was walking past a chicken area and chickens were trying to get at him and stuff.”

Presland says plans are underway to remove the chickens — again.

In the meantime, Presland has a simple message for his fellow Titirangians: Please don’t feed the feral chickens.

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