Feral Chickens

 Tomatoes damaged by chickens

Tomatoes damaged by chickens

 Field of broccoli damaged by chickens

Field of broccoli damaged by chickens

Bermuda has a large population of feral chickens (Gallus domesticus) that are a serious threat to our parks and agricultural lands. These once domestic chickens have now established a breeding population in the wild so they are referred to as ‘feral’. The current population of feral chickens in Bermuda is estimated to be at least 20,000 to 25, 000. These wild chickens are a nuisance as they disturb gardens and many of us have been awoken at night by a crowing rooster! There is also a significant economic cost from controlling the chicken population and from the damage they cause. Feral chickens cause an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 worth of damage to crops each year in Bermuda. Crops primarily damaged by chickens include beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, strawberries and bananas.

There is also the possibility that these birds could act as vectors for disease, should the avian flu or other diseases ever reach Bermuda. Given that many feral chicken populations occur in parks and nature reserves, it is not at all unlikely that they could contract diseases from migrating birds and spread them to other wild birds.

Chickens have no significant predators in Bermuda. Chicks may be killed by rats or crows, and some chickens are killed by cars, but there is no significant predation to keep the population in check.  Calculations show that if one hen lays 5 eggs, and three quarters of these chicks survive with 4/5 being female, a single hen can produce 1024 hens in 100 weeks. If the number of eggs increases to 8, the resulting number of hens would be  6564. Therefore if you have a few chickens on your property don’t wait to take action and if you find chicken eggs destroy them. Feral chickens should never be fed or otherwise encouraged.

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