Fowl Play: Police Chief Responds To Failure Of Family To Remove Chickens By Decapitating Boy’s Pet Hen And Leaving Head Near Coop

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In a case that has some disturbing comparisons to the Bolger case out of Baltimore, a police chief in Atwater, Minnesota is accused of killing a boy’s pet chicken and then leaving the hen’s decapitated head near the chicken coop. Police Chief Trevor Berger was reportedly responding to a violation of the city ordinance prohibiting fowl and the failure of the Turnbull’s to comply with the order to get rid of three chickens and two ducks. However, like Bolger (who sit a dog’s throat), Berger is accused of taking horrific actions in response to a minor violation. Berger has since apologized by saying that he did not know it was a pet, but that still leaves the question of why an officer would decapitate animals and leave their heads on the ground in response to a municipal violation.

Turnbull’s fiancé, Chris Gordon, said that Berger was less contrite when the family called and asked him if he came to their home and killed their pet. He said that Berger responded with “Yup. Any questions?” Berger later also said that the uproar was about nothing and “most of the people think it’s rather silly” when “there’s such uproar about a chicken.”

The hen was given as a present to Phoenix Turnbull, 5, on his birthday.

Berger appears to view a proper response as including clubbing a small red hen with a shovel and decapitating it. He said that he was trying to respond to the complaints of a “frustrated” neighbor about the chickens running loose. Turnbull’s neighbor, Dick Rierson, brought pictures of Turnbull’s muddy poultry pen to the August city council meeting and later said that he objected to chicken living “in filth like that” and that such conditions could attract rats.

Berger said that he had to try for roughly ten minutes to catch the hen. After getting the other fowl into the cage, he “dispatched” the chicken in order to show Rierson “some results.” He said that he decided not to use his gun because children were playing nearby.

Berger insisted that his actions were legal.

Berger at the time said “I’m sorry it had to happen that way” and that leaving the severed head was really not meant to send a message. He thought it was still attached to the body when he took the carcass. However, it did not “have to happen” at all. I was not aware of police carrying out impromptu executions when a family has been notified of a violation.

Berger was asked earlier this year to present a proposed ordinance to allow chickens in the city. It will be presented at the meeting where this incident is to be discussed.

As for the neighbor, Rierson is quoted as saying that, if killing the chicken was the only way for the police chief to address the problem, “then I’d say he’s doing his job.”

I suppose that the family should be thankful that Rierson did not complain about truant or trespassing children.

Source: Twin Cities
Kudos: Michael Blott

91 thoughts on “Fowl Play: Police Chief Responds To Failure Of Family To Remove Chickens By Decapitating Boy’s Pet Hen And Leaving Head Near Coop”

  1. Nick,

    “We also have some whining losers. You’ll pick them out easily.”

    Again, you add to the definition of civil conversation.

  2. Last comment before we go on a small vacation. See ya later.

    Oh yes. Broody. The helicopter parents of the bird world. She really had to spread herself out to cover the clutch. What dedication! How dismayed she was when her “kids” tried to do unnatural acts (swim). OMG!!!

    Chickens are a kick. Also a lot of work. More than I want to do at this time. Even though they are “not the sharpest crayons in the box” they are really fun, entertaining and ……edible. 🙂

  3. DBQ- I’ve never had a bantam, but I’ve heard they’re especially broody. Was that your experience? I keep picturing a little black banty atop a pile of huge duck eggs. How cute.

  4. In the end, one gets the comments section that one deserves, I suppose.

    “Whining losers”… Now is that civil?

  5. prayer, We have some great women here. You just named 2 of the best. We also have some whining losers. You’ll pick them out easily.

  6. DBG – Brilliant. I can just see it. Birds can have seriously strong characters despite their size. Our banties were brown, grey and black speckled. I was once tempted by a Silkie. But I controlled myself. Looks aren’t everything. Some beautiful stories on this site. DBQ & Karen thank you.

  7. @ Karen and Prayerwarrier

    We had Bantys too along with some Rhode Island Red hens. The little black Bantams were hilarious. So serious about their babies. They reminded me of little Italian grandmothers hovering over the kids and grandkids all dressed in black and ever watchful.

    We also had a few ducks. One of the ducks decided to abandon her eggs and one especially serious Banty decided to hatch the eggs and then mother the ducklings. It was so cute to see the little yellow fuzz balls following the hen. Such a proud mother!!! One day the ducklings decided to use the kiddie pool we had for the ducks to splash around in. You should have seen how frantic the Banty was. Clucking and squawking.

    “Get out of there you damned kids!!!! You’re gonna drown!!!!!”

  8. I’m with Darren on this one. Due process requires a court order for the actions taken by this officer. He violated Constitutionally protected rights.

    There also is the question whether the city ordinance is a valid law. Just because the city creates an ordinance, it does not mean that the ordinance is valid. Our U.S. Constitution acknowledges that we have property rights. The means of the city in regulating these rights needs to be scrutinized here. It is a lot easier to argue for breed specific laws against pit bulls being a danger to citizens than arguing the danger posed to the community from a pet chicken. Is the hypothesis that conditions for keeping the pet could attract rats the best that could be argued for this law? Seems pretty weak to me.

  9. Mike A – do tell. 🙂

    prayerwarrier – what kind of bandies? One day I want a Silver Sebright. So pretty! One of my hens kept trying to come in the house, too. She would fly up in our laps if we sat down on the porch. The other chickens HATED her. Had no idea pecking order was so literal.

    I would really dislike if our government in the US ever started dictating feed. My hens are organic and free range.

    Goat anything – milk, cheese, or meat, seems to be an acquired taste, but the milk makes excellent soap. I’ve known some really sweet pet goats my friends had, and want one some day. (Never a buck!)

    I agree the neighbor was a big part of the problem.

  10. KarenS -love the story of the pet rooster. Our pets were banties and I was amazed at how much character a small creature could have – very affectionate and loyal. They spent a lot of time trying to get into the house. It seemed to be their dream home.
    The goat was another idea which did not work out. Us kids (human) didn’t like the milk and she was the definition of cantankerousness. When she passed on to the orchard in the sky the general feeling was relief.
    The chickens were fascinating when they were running loose in the field. I learnt early about the “peck order”. My parents sold their eggs to the Egg Marketing Board who dictated the feed. (UK) They figured out eventually that they were working for nothing. So they packed it in and Mum went out to work.
    Like you I feel what the policeman did was horrible. How could a chicken hurt anyone? And the little boy and his family didn’t deserve that. And the neighbour was mean. First he complained about the chickens running about. And then when they were penned complained again. I mean, it wasn’t necessary.

  11. Prayerwarrior:

    The farm sounds like a fun place to grow up. 50 years ago, the big thing was “getting a few dozen birds” and starting an egg business, but few of them were profitable. Did you have a dairy goat?

    Paul – Most roosters and kids do not mix. Their job is to protect the flock, and kids like to run around, triggering their machismo complex. There are a few more docile breeds, and individuals within those breeds. But no way would I keep a rooster who was aggressive.

    My first chicken was actually a rooster, which was given to me as a gift. Foolishly, because I lived in a condo at the time. I kept hoping it was a hen, but it became clear he was a roo. He was a meat breed, so he was huge. I completely sissified him. He would perch on my shoulder like an enormous white parrot. We would garden together, and he would lie in wait between my feet, poised to dart forward and snatch up any insects. When he started making garbled attempts to crow, I had to re-home him in the country. I found a farmer with a coop full of hens, in need of a rooster. He said those hens were no ladies. They beat him up until he finally figured out he was a rooster and king of the hen house. So roos can be sweet. But if you are going to keep a roo and don’t want to require a broom to enter your own yard, you have to handle him a lot and make a pet out of him, and STILL some of them just develop too much testosterone to believe.

  12. To Karen S – 70 chickens. We were on a small holding in the countryside. We also had a goat. Hens only for eggs sold to Egg Marketing Board. No cockerel. A lot of work, a bit of a smell because a lot of birds, but 2 or 3 birds should not bother anybody. 2 or 3 birds free ranging, poop is tiny like wild birds, but fair enough if you don’t want your neighbours birds on your land. Any chicken run will look muddy even when birds are looked after. (Ours were free range in a field then went Into battery cages, poor things). Gave it up, wasn’t economic. 50 years ago.

  13. randyjet:

    “I take it that you abstain from eating chicken and eggs as well.”

    I don’t know about the poster with the 70 chickens, but I only keep hens, no roosters. If I did not gather and eat their eggs, they would rot, because they are infertile without a rooster. So, yep, I eat their eggs instead of throwing them in the trash.

    Many people keep flocks of that size (70 birds) for either an egg business, show bird breeding, or they put up spring chickens in the freezer. A hen can live for 15 years, but is at peak production for a few years. People who keep laying flocks often cull their flocks after a certain # of years. They go into the freezer as stewing hens and the new birds ensure there’s never a drop in production. Or if they breed show birds they have to cull. That’s common on farms. What is also common is for the farm kids to have a few favorite birds they turn into pets, who get to live out their lives in cushy retirement. Most people nowadays don’t spend much time on farms, or don’t understand the specifics of how food gets into grocery stores.

    Here’s another little known fact for non-farmers. Most people want hens, not roosters. In fact, in many locations roosters are not allowed at all. Which means that most rooster chicks are either culled or sold as meat birds.

    Paul – I totally agree. Don’t turn pets into food. Once I name my hens, they are pets and die of natural causes. I’ve never raised any animal/poultry for food. I’d have to have very little contact with the birds, or I’d start thinking they were cute.

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