• Michelle Hunniford

A chicken mystery on Easter Island

Whenever I’m reading something and there's a story involving chickens, it immediately catches my eye. Does that happen to you too? No, just me? That’s alright, I’ll highlight some of the cool things I've read about chickens in this and subsequent posts.

I was recently reading Collapse by Jared diamond, you know some light reading, and he was describing the monolithic sculptures on Easter island. The ones that are so understood in popular culture that there’s actually an emoji for them (🗿🗿)! Well, it turns out there is another type of stone structure on Easter island that is even more numerous and almost as mysterious. You guessed it, chicken houses!

They are called hare moa (hare = house, moa = chicken or bird) and generally measure 20 ft long x 10 ft wide x 6 ft tall. And there are 1,233 of them on Easter island. They are made of stone and have a small opening at the base that the chickens use as an entrance (see below). Apparently these structures mainly served to protect the chickens at night, with a large stone placed at the entrance to prevent chickens from escaping or enemy tribes from stealing them.

Upon a bit of further research, there is a some contention about whether "chicken coop" was the original purpose of the hare moa. Although chickens do use them and chicken bones have been found inside, it is more likely they were tombs that were later co-opted by chickens. Which is such a chicken thing to do! Chickens are such excellent opportunists.

But I guess that just adds to the mystery of Easter Island.


For more information:

Stone Chicken Coops on Easter Island (2000) by Edwin N. Ferdon, Jr. Rapa Nui Journal: Journal of the Easter Island Foundation (Volume 14, Issue 3).

Collapse by Jared Diamond (2005). Penguin Books: London, England. p. 91.

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