Hostile takeover: A total of 30,000 feral chickens infest Bermuda and numbers are growing, a Government Minister said. <em>*Photo supplied</em>
Hostile takeover: A total of 30,000 feral chickens infest Bermuda and numbers are growing, a Government Minister said. *Photo supplied
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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15: A total of 30,000 feral chickens infest Bermuda and numbers are growing, a Government Minister said today.

Public Works Minister Michael Weeks said — as well a being a nuisance — the wild birds could spread potential killer diseases like bird flu.

But he added it is hoped that a new drive to get rid of the pests will wipe out the problem within three years.

Mr Weeks said: “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 potential disease vectors for salmonella and bird flu that could impact public health.”

Mr Weeks was speaking at Spittal Pond nature reserve in Smith’s as he launched a new pest management plan.

He said the spread of feral chickens had been made worse by inconsiderate owners dumping unwanted birds — and by 1987’s Hurricane Emily, which destroyed chicken coops and released domesticated birds into the wild.

Mr Weeks added that a breeding hen can produce eight to 15 chicks every 20 weeks — which reach breeding age after five weeks.

That means a single hen can lead to the creation of up to 198 new feral birds every year.

Mr Weeks said that new legislation would introduce strict penalties to outlaw feeding of feral chickens and the release of birds into the wild.

Mr Weeks added that proposals to farm wild chickens for meat or eggs or selling feathers on the international market for use in plastics, paper pulp or textiles had been ruled out as not being cost-effective.

And he appealed for help from the public in eradicating feral birds from neighbourhoods, parks and golf courses.

He added that anyone owning chickens should make sure they were properly housed and not left to roam — warning that a fine of nearly $3,000 could be imposed on people who let birds stray off their property.

Anyone who wants to report a chicken problem should contact the Department of Conservation Services on 293 2727 or use the pest control request form at www.conservation.bm