Missing L. Merion chicken meets a violent end

Lauren Steltzer (right) holds "Panic"; daughter Maddie, 10, is with "Spot" at their home.
Lauren Steltzer (right) holds "Panic"; daughter Maddie, 10, is with "Spot" at their home.
Posted: April 06, 2010

When two of Lauren Steltzer's pet chickens went missing last week, she put out a Facebook message to her Lower Merion neighbors.

The subject line: "Chickens on the lam."

But at least one Lower Merion Township police officer didn't see the message or the "Lost Chickens" posters Steltzer put up throughout the neighborhood.

When the cop responded to a call for a "large, orange chicken running at large" in a residential lawn, he got his fireman friend to skewer Connie the chicken with a bow and arrow, police said.

"The department's opinion is that the officer could have used much better judgment in the resolution of this issue," said Lower Merion Lt. Christopher Polo.

Steltzer's chicken woes began in mid-March, when a bloodthirsty raccoon broke in to her coop and killed three of her four chickens, she said.

She adopted two more to keep the lone survivor company.

"You can't have one chicken by itself; you need a little flock," Steltzer said.

But on March 29, the two new chickens flew the coop and Steltzer, 48, took to social media and missing posters to find them.

One of the chickens was apprehended in a neighbor's yard. Steltzer said it took her and five others to corral the chicken and coax it back home.

"There was no sign of the other chicken anywhere," she said, "which is odd, because chickens don't hide; they putter around."

It wasn't until the next day, when a neighbor with knowledge of the incident saw Steltzer's Facebook posting and told her of the foul fate of her dear fowl.

"I was very surprised and disappointed because I'd been looking for the darn thing for 24 hours," said Steltzer. "Here, an hour after it disappeared, they shot it - with a bow and arrow!"

Polo said police had received a call between noon and 1 p.m. March 29 that there was a "large, orange chicken running at large," but did not know that the animal was an escapee.

"When the officer located it, he felt that it was a threat to other domestic animals," Polo said. "He decided that the animal needed to be dispatched."

The officer, an eight-year veteran who has not been identified, called a local fireman with archery-hunting skills to the scene to shoot Connie, Polo said.

Polo said that there was nothing illegal about the act and that a chicken is not protected under the state game-commission laws.

Steltzer said that in the future, she would put tiny identification tags on her chickens so people would realize they are pets.

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