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Found: Pet chicken; friendly -- no cooks

Her Highness the Hen sleeps like dog, meows like a cat, eats off a plate and keeps quiet at sunrise. What more could you ask?

By NATALIE BAUGHMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- When Nadine Smith saw a small white chicken wandering the grounds of a friend's apartment building Sunday morning, she knew exactly what to do.

"I took her home, naturally," Smith said. "I could tell by her mannerisms that she must have been a lost pet. I didn't want her to get eaten by a cat or something."

Smith has kept the chicken -- which she has since named "Her Highness the Hen" -- at her house since that day. The chicken made herself comfortable immediately, Smith said, by establishing a corner of the kitchen as her own and strutting around the house, clucking at everyone who passed by.

"She's taken over the kitchen and the living room," Smith said. "She walks on the counter tops -- eating anything off our plates that appeals to her. She also stands on top of the entertainment system, surveying the room as if it's her kingdom."

Her Highness also interacts well with people -- all the more reason that she's probably someone's pet, Smith said. She makes a sound like a cat's meow when people pet her and whimpers when she's left alone in a room.

When she sleeps, she doesn't curl her head under her wing as most chickens do. Instead, she lies flat on her chest and presses her head forward, almost like a dog or cat, Smith said.

"She's adorable," Smith said. "I'd keep her, except I already have two dogs and I'm afraid they'd be jealous."

Since the day Smith found Her Highness, she has posted signs around the neighborhood so the owner could claim her. She also has placed an advertisement in the St. Petersburg Times.

Chickens aren't just livestock for farmers and often make good pets for people, said Beth Lockwood, the executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an agency that takes in unwanted pets and keeps them until they can be adopted. Lockwood said that they're social, they're friendly and they're fun to be around.

"We always have 10 or more of them at SPCA at one time," Lockwood said. "I let them roam freely through the shelter -- to mingle with the other animals and greet our visitors."

Lockwood said not many days go by that she doesn't find chicken eggs in her flower beds or chicken scratch on her tables. After a couple of days at the shelter, each chicken develops a routine that it sticks to day after day.

"They eat at the same time every day, fly around at the same time and sleep at the same time," she said. "It's really kind of a neat thing."

People most frequently bring chicks to animal shelters a few days after Easter, when their children no longer want them, said Rick Chaboudy, the director of the Humane Society of North Pinellas. People also bring in roosters because neighbors complain about the noise they make early each morning.

St. Petersburg allows people to keep chickens so long as no one who lives within 100 feet of the home complains.

"Chickens and roosters are fairly uncommon pets because they have a tendency to become aggressive," Chaboudy said. "We see a fair number of them because people realize that over time."

But Smith still maintains that Her Highness would make a perfect pet for anyone who would adopt her.

"She's well behaved, she's quiet at night and she likes being around people," Smith said. "I don't know why somebody wouldn't want a pet like that."

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