A boy and his chicken — pet, that is

Published 12:05 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

SALISBURY — When Keegan Ray met a friend’s pet chicken, even at 7 years old, he knew he had to have one of his own.

In September of 2021, he got his wish, when 4-month-old Penelope, a silver duck wing chicken, joined his family. Keegan and Penelope have been nearly inseparable in the year and a half since.

Until, that is, just over a week ago, on Saturday, Jan.21.

Keegan, now 9, and mom Cassandra Ray often take Penelope to play at Bell Tower Green park.

“Penelope is the sweetest chicken,” said Cassandra. “My son has tamed her very well. Everywhere we go people dote on her and just love petting her or giving her a treat. So, she loves people. She has been to Bell Tower since we moved here in August many times. She loves it there. She can scratch in the dirt and chase people down for their food or drinks. She is the cutest.”

But last Saturday, Penelope wandered a little too far away, and another family, which also has chickens, thought she had been abandoned. So they took her home.

Meanwhile, Keegan was frantically looking for her, and Cassandra said, “I was frantically running around the playground asking kids and parents if they had seen anyone with a small chicken.”

Having no luck at the park, mom and son then went door to door looking for Penelope.

They reported the missing mini-chicken to police and asked to review video footage of the park.

That night was not an easy one.

“I couldn’t sleep,” said Keegan, who kept getting up to check on her, forgetting she was not at home in her own little cage. “I kept saying, ‘My baby, my baby,'” Keegan quipped. And his voice was happy in telling about that first night’s trauma, because the next day, the family that had taken her home got word from someone who had seen Cassandra’s Facebook post, and they called.

“We arranged to meet at Kohl’s,” Cassandra said, “and Keegan was so happy to see her.” Penelope, they said, was calm about the whole situation, at least at first. Two days after coming home, she had some tummy troubles, but has since recovered, and even laid an egg.

Keegan and his family are animal lovers across the board. They have two American pit bull terriers, and at one point, Keegan had a pet turkey named Tom that he tamed and trained.

Cassandra said they have every intention of going back to the park with Penelope, but with one addition.

“We’re going to get her a tiny little harness so we don’t lose her again,” she said.

“She’s sitting on my shoulder right now,” Keegan said while he was recounting her adventure Wednesday night. “Right where she belongs.”