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Have you seen our chickens? - Ashwicken pupils search for their stolen brood.

PUBLISHED: 14:07 12 June 2013 | UPDATED: 14:07 12 June 2013

Five chickens have been stolen from Ashwicken Primary School. Pictured is Merissa Eagle (7). Picture: Ian Burt

Five chickens have been stolen from Ashwicken Primary School. Pictured is Merissa Eagle (7). Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

A village school was left in shock after the "despicable" theft of its beloved flock of chickens.

Five hens were taken from their run at Ashwicken Primary School over the weekend and pupils have been left devastated by their disappearance.

The crime was discovered when a parent came to feed the chickens on Sunday morning only to find a lot of feathers and one very traumatised hen.

Linda Preston, deputy head teacher at Ashwicken Primary, said: “It’s a terrific shock to all of us. We have a rota of parents who come to let them out and feed them and when the parent came to the hen house there was a mess of feathers.

“The children are especially upset. We reared these hens, we incubated them watched them hatch,” said Mrs Preston.

“They are the kind of hens that come up to you, that like to be stroked and they are very much part of our little school community.”

It became clear that the intruders were not animals as a hole had been cut into wire of the run.

“Because we back on to woodland we were aware of the threat of foxes, but not in our wildest imagination did we think someone would steal them,” said Mrs Preston.

“It’s a quite despicable thing to do knowing that these are pets at a school – each one of them had a name and the children recognise them all by sight.”

In the hope of finding the missing birds pupils have created posters which they have put up around the village.

“We’d very much like to find out what happened to them,” said Mrs Preston.

“The children have been very proactive in thinking of ways to find them. They came up with the idea of plastering our local area with posters.”

The school first decided to have chickens as a way of teaching the pupils about looking after animals seven years ago. Later pupils and teachers raised the next generation, of four Rhode Island Red hens, from eggs.

As well as teaching pupils about how to care for animals, the hens have been used as part of the science curriculum and the eggs have been used in cooking classes.

The surviving hen, a Buff Orpington known as Betty Boo Boo, has been moved to a safe location with a pupil’s parents’ own flock.

The school have received many offers of replacement chickens however Mrs Preston was unsure as to whether the school was prepared to take on grown birds.

“We’ve been inundated with offers,” she said, “which is lovely. But if we were to have more we would like to incubate them from an egg again. We want the children to have that experience and to have chickens which are so child-friendly. If we were to get more the thieves might come back for the rest so we will have to be careful about that.”

The police are investigating the theft and would like to speak to anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area between 4pm on Saturday, June 8, and 9.30am on Sunday.

PC Poppy Thompson, who is investigating the theft, said: “The chickens have provided eggs for the school for six years and have lived at the school since they were chicks.

“The staff and students think of the chickens as pets and they are very tame. We are therefore keen to speak to anyone who believes they may know who was responsible for the theft.”

Officers would like to hear from anyone who may know about the theft or may have been offered the chickens for sale.

This is not the first incident of livestock theft in West Norfolk in recent weeks.

One-hundred and twenty-seven pigs were stolen from a farm in the Gayton area between 12pm on Saturday, June 1, and 7am on Sunday, June 2.

And a beekeeper in Tilney Cum Islington, near King’s Lynn, had four of his hives, worth an estimated £1,000, stolen during the spring. It is thought that the thieves would have required specialist equipment and knowledge to carry out the theft.

Anyone with information on the chicken theft should contact PC Poppy Thompson at Norfolk Constabulary on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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