DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jose and Pat Royos trap feral chickens and roosters under contract to the City & County of Honolulu that are pests to homeowners all across Oahu. Above, the Royos and their 8-year-old granddaughter Josaphine Kane Royos looked last week at a chicken with her two chicks that they trapped at a home in Nuuanu.
Too much to crow about
The increasing number of complaints about rooster and hens in Oahu's urban areas means steady work for Pat and Jose Royos
STORY SUMMARY »
The roosters are just doing what they do best -- crowing. And as more and more Oahu residents are learning, roosters crow all times of the day and night, including the early morning hours.
Rooster and hen populations appear to be on the rise, with more frequent complaints coming from residents who can't sleep at night -- and more complaints are coming from urban residential areas.
In an effort to respond to complaints, the City & County of Honolulu has a $60,000 contract with Royos Farm to help round up these pesky fowl on private residences throughout Oahu.
Pat and Jose Royos are responding to the calls, with an arsenal of wire-cage traps, taking over a role formerly filled by the Hawaii Game Breeders Association. They also act as rooster mediators -- responding to neighbors' complaints and informing those who keep pet roosters that only two are allowed per household under city law.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jose Royos started to lift up the cage as his granddaughter, Josaphine, watched. Royos said he makes the traps himself. He said these low-tech cages are the best for the job.
FIRST OF TWO PARTS
First, there is a rustle of flapping wings, and then comes a warm-up-- ehr-ehr-ehrrr --- and then the piercing crow -- cockadoodle-doo ... doodle-doo-ehr-ehr. Sometimes one rooster crows, and another joins in, or two or more start a deafening chorus.
But it's not daybreak.
The roosters actually crow at all times of the day and night, including midnight and 3:30 in the morning, which is what's been keeping an increasing number of Hawaii residents awake at night.
The city currently has a $60,000 contract with Pat and Jose Royos of Royos Farm to catch all the pesky fowl on private residences -- up from the $40,500 contract with the Hawaii Game Breeders Association last year.
The contract expired in July, and was put out to bid again with the amount increased due to the volume of work and cost of gas, according to Dennis Kamimura, administrator for the city Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing.
This time, the city wanted the contract to include several kinds of fowl, including ducks and peacocks, but none of the bidders were interested.
Many said peacocks are a different bird and require much larger traps.
With the contract, Royos Farm's duties are twofold -- to help trap feral roosters and chickens on private residences, and to respond to crowing rooster complaints from those who live near pet roosters.
Pat Royos's chicken complaint line is constantly ringing, seven days a week.
The complaints come from all parts of the island -- from Waianae to Foster Village, Nuuanu Valley and Papakolea, up to Kaneohe and Haleiwa. More calls are coming from urban neighborhoods, such as Kaimuki.
STAR-BULLETIN FILE / JANUARY 2007
These chickens were caught by Pat and Jose Royos early last year in the Kaneohe area for the Hawaii Game Breeders Association. The couple now contracts with the City & County of Honolulu.
The breeders association, which had the contract the last few years, did not bid for the new chicken-catching contract.
But Pat Royos, who worked a number of years for the association, decided to step up to the plate, along with her husband, Jose. They were one of two companies bidding for the contract, which is good until Oct. 31, and renewable.
Royos is cut out for her job, having grown up with roosters near Waiahole valley, and having an instinct for their every move. She and Jose Royos have caught at least 6,000 over the last five years.
Royos is also an advocate of allowing people to breed roosters as part of an ancient tradition.
Since taking over the contract, Royos Farm has been swamped with calls -- from Makaha to the windward side to Papakolea (where she just rounded up 75). In all, Royos Farming has 30 traps.
Basically, when a resident complains about wild roosters on his or her property, they will come out, set up a cage trap, and explain how it works.
It may be old-fashioned technology, but Pat Royos believes the wire traps are "still the best method." Success depends on some luck, but also on how cooperative the resident is.
Depending how many roosters or chickens there are to catch, she offers different sizes of traps, some of which have an automatically shutting trap when the chicken steps inside, and some of which require a quick draw of a string.
If roosters end up in the trap, they return to retrieve them.
Such was the case recently for Yuki (who preferred not to give her last name), an elderly resident in Nuuanu valley. For a year, she said roosters and chickens were keeping her awake at night, crowing at 3:30 a.m.
One rooster began making himself comfortable on her garden bench.
The city referred her to Royos Farm, and she was told to start a feeding station -- a consistent area where chickens expect to find food. That's where they set up the trap, right on her lanai.
She caught a rooster on the first day, four the next time, and then a few weeks later, a hen and two chicks. She bought more feed from Longs Drugs.
Reaching into the cage from the top, Pat and Jose Royos took the hen and chicks out with their bare hands, to be transferred to a closed cage in the back of their truck.
"They were beautiful, but they crowed all day," said Yuki. She called the rooster retrievers "a wonderful service."
NINA WU / NWU@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jose Royos of Royos Farm held out a young chicken last week that he caught in the Nuuanu area.
With the Royos' city contract comes another role -- that of rooster mediator.
When neighbors complain about pet roosters crowing, the Royos go out, hand the owners a brochure with suggestions about how to keep the chicken quiet at night, and remind them that only two are allowed per household under Honolulu's animal nuisance law.
If three complaints are logged, then the Royos refer it to the police. Penalties range from $25 to $500, along with a court appearance.
For police responding to rooster calls, an officer must wait outside to verify 10 minutes of continuous crowing or 30 minutes of intermittent crowing, to establish an animal nuisance offense.
The Hawaiian Humane Society still gets rooster complaint calls, but since its budget was cut several years ago has stopped responding to them.
The toughest job for Royos Farm sometimes is not working with the chickens, but with the people.
"The toughest job is when you can't satisfy everybody," said Pat Royos. "Some neighbors like the chickens and some don't like the chickens. We try to tell the neighbors to talk to each other."
It involves walking a fine line, because some animal activists actually set the roosters free from the traps when no one's looking. Some who own pet roosters are very defensive about it, calling it a cultural practice and a right.
Some residents have raised chickens for 40 to 50 years, with no complaints, but then a new neighbor moves in and puts in a call to Royos Farm.
Yet others feed the roosters, making it difficult to trap them, such as was the case in a Kaimuki park.
"Chickens aren't dumb," she said. "The chickens won't go into the traps if they've already eaten. If there are people in the community feeding the chickens, then that becomes a problem for us."
Also, some residents want the roosters caught but don't want the traps on their properties or for someone to monitor them, making the job difficult.
As more agricultural lands go under residential development, they retain remnants of rural life -- namely, roosters. More mainland transplants, who aren't used to roosters where they grew up, are also making complaints.
CHICKENS ON THE RISE
Though there is no official state count, the number of feral chickens seems to be on the rise, according to Royos.
Whereas they used to be concentrated primarily in rural parts of Leeward and Windward Oahu, they have now spread to more urban parts of Honolulu. Since they can fly, roosters and chickens end up roaming and crossing various property lines.
Even residents from neighbor islands are calling, she said, but the contract only covers Oahu. The city contract also does not include public city or state lands.
In residential real estate, roosters are seldom listed on disclosure statements, according to local firms.
Chason Ishii, president of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, says unlike the coqui frog, roosters are not part of the standard disclosure statement. However, Ishii said it is wise to disclose roosters if they are nuisances.
Abe Lee of Abe Lee Realty said disclosing roosters as well as barking dogs is prudent if a seller wants to be cautious.
City councilman Charles Djou has tried several times -- most recently again last year -- to introduce bills banning roosters from residential areas. But so far, none have passed.
As for the fate of the roosters that they trap?
No, there's no huli-huli business on the side. The Royos are too swamped to run a second business.
The roosters (and hens) are given away for free to people who want them because they're organic, and free of hormones. Royos keeps the chicks, however, for a church pastor she knows, until they're grown.
Tomorrow: Roosters at a city Park & Ride are keeping Hawaii Kai residents awake.
NINA WU / NWU@STARBULLETIN.COM
Feral roosters hunted for food last week in Hawaii Kai.
Know your rooster
Contrary to popular belief, roosters do not crow only at daybreak.
They can crow any time of the day, and all night. They crow when they see the moon, when they want to challenge one another, when they're being territorial or to sound a warning, and when they're just plain happy or excited.
"They crow because that's what God made them to do," said Jose Royos of Royos Farms, which has a city contract to catch them when they get loose.
When someone uses the bathroom, and turns on the light, roosters will crow because they think the sun is rising, according to Pat Royos.
Though the roosters make the most noise, hens can also create a ruckus, particularly when they're fighting one another for territory or being protective of their chicks.
Part of the problem is that parts of our islands that once were agricultural have become residential.
Royos recommends that people not let pet roosters go wild or dispose of them in a park.
Royos Farm will also pick up unwanted pet roosters and chickens, which will save them the trouble of catching them when they're released.
Nina Wu, Star-Bulletin