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Ditchingham chickens vanish

PUBLISHED: 11:10 02 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:23 06 July 2010

A further twist has emerged in the mystery of the disappearing "roundabout chickens" in Waveney after a driver spotted a family trying to capture the birds.

A further twist has emerged in the mystery of the disappearing “roundabout chickens” in Waveney after a driver spotted a family trying to capture the birds.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said he reached the Ditchingham roundabout on the Norfolk - Suffolk border when he noticed saw a maroon coloured Fiesta that had parked nearby and an elderly woman, two men and a boy and girl in their late teens.

“The two teenagers were chasing the chickens and the woman was telling them which ones to go for,” he said. “She was directing them and they were running after them.

“I went round the roundabout twice because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I pulled up on the other side of the road and they then scarpered into the car and off they went. As soon as they saw someone taking notice of them they were gone.”

He said he was convinced from their behaviour that their motive was to capture the birds.

The man, who is local and drives a route that takes him past the chicken colony every day, said he saw the incident at about 9.40am on Tuesday, September 22. He noted the car's registration plate.

It is believed that chickens have lived at the junction of Norwich Road and the A143 for at least 50 years after escaping from nearby allotments and living off grain from a nearby maltings. It emerged in July that numbers had dwindled dramatically during the previous months and the RSPCA said it did not have an explanation as no carcasses or injured birds had been found. RSPCA inspectors asked for anyone who saw anything suspicious to report it.

Now Gordon Knowles, who has been feeding the birds for the last two decades and is known locally as the “chicken man”, says the numbers are continuing to drop.

“Last Christmas there was about 140 - now we have a job to make 20-odd,” he said. “Although I think one or two people have put others back.

“People love coming that way and seeing them. It's a landmark. Even people in Australia and Canada have heard of them.

“I don't know if people are keeping them or taking them for the pot, I really don't know, but they have got to be stopped. It's up to people to say something to them. They should definitely report it.”

Anyone with information can contact the RSPCA in confidence on 0300 1234 999.

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