by Sarah Squires
She's not your average chicken.
Odette doesn't even think twice about crossing the road. She's got all she needs on her Huff and Broadway corner: a little green house, a nice big yard, a family who loves her, popcorn balls and plenty of peanuts.
But even though Odette has mastered the dangers of traffic navigation at what might be the busiest intersection downtown, even though her family wouldn't think of garnishing their holiday table with their friendly bird, Odette is at risk. She's been a victim twice.
Odette was chicken-napped.
Whether folks fall in love with the Rhode Island Red, whether they think she's lost or they're just plain hungry, Odette is a target. She's come up missing more than once, with the last adventure the most dramatic.
It happened a couple weeks ago. Odette took a leisurely flight over her coop fence while her calmer chicken counterpart, Simi, stayed behind. She set to work pecking about her yard, something she frequently enjoys.
A witness driving east on Broadway saw what happened next.
"I saw this van at a red light," she reported. "A woman jumped out and grabbed the chicken and got back in the van."
Knowing Odette was a beloved pet, the witness took a quick turn, grabbed a pen and jotted down the license plate number.
She then called owner Cherie Burke and told her the news: "I saw someone kidnap your chicken."
With Odette a gift to her daughter, a dismayed Burke called the police department for some assistance in tracking down the culprit. Finding Odette's kidnapper took some footwork, as the registered owner of the van had just sold it, and police had to figure out who now had the vehicle, and, the chicken.
Luckily, the woman who took Odette was not trying to score a meal. "She felt that the chicken was in some sort of peril, so she took it," reported Burke, who was reunited with Odette the next day.
Odette was also reunited with her best chicken friend, Simi. Burke reported that the two were pretty shaken up over the whole ordeal. "Simi was pretty mopey. Real quiet," said Burke. "When Odette came back she wasn't quite the same either. They had never been apart. It took them about a day to get back into the swing of things."
For Odette and Simi, the swing of things is roosting on the back porch or sitting on the front porch railing, watching the traffic go by. The two are inseparable. They were even chicken-napped, together, the first time they left their downtown homestead since they were tiny chicks.
That time, a man who thought the chickens were lost brought them home and put them in a dog kennel. When he called Animal Control the next day, Odette and Simi's friends there told him of the mistake.
The chicken couple stumbled upon the domestic stroke of luck last April, when Burke's husband, Terry Breza, stopped at a hardware store in Red Wing on his way home. It was Good Friday, and on a whim, he brought home two baby chicks for the kids.
"Our original intent was to have them for fun and butcher them in the fall," said Burke. "But we hand-fed them. They're our pets. We love them."
After a couple months, with the baby chicks growing in a box in the garage, it became clear that they were going to stay. Then on Labor Day, Simi and Odette started paying rent -- each laying an egg a day for the family who's made them a happy home.
The two have distinct personalities. Odette is the adventurous one, she flies over the fence instead of digging a little hole underneath, like Simi does. "Odette is kind of rowdy," said Burke. "Simi was easier to be buddies with in the beginning. Now they've both come along -- they'll let you pet and hold them."
Now the two are home for Christmas, and they're hardy enough to play around in the snow. They haven't been laying eggs, now that it's colder, but they've paid their dues.
"They're great pets," said Burke. "There's not a bug or a slug in my garden. They eat everything."