Funky chicken is MIA

Staff WriterJuly 21, 2006 

MISSING: A chicken dressed as Jimmy Buffett in a Hawaiian shirt and floral lei.

LAST SEEN: July 14.

A birdnapper snatched the foot-high metal sculpture that was perched on Steve and Nancy Hight's mailbox. The only things left -- the chicken's beach hat inside the mailbox and a grisly reminder, the chicken's foot.

"He may need medical attention," Nancy Hight said.

The theft has ruffled some feathers in the Hights' Lake Boone Trail neighborhood in Raleigh.

Known simply as The Chicken, the bird was a celebrity who posed in chic fashions for every occasion. When the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, The Chicken sported a red Canes jersey, held a hockey stick and hoisted a miniature Cup in its metallic feathers.

When the skies got gloomy, The Chicken warned of the storm with its yellow rubber raincoat and an umbrella.

"When I didn't have time to watch the news, I would go by The Chicken to see if he had a raincoat on," said Mary Elizabeth Cella, a neighbor.

Hight hatched The Chicken in 2005 as a way for friends and family to find her house. Her fascination with chicken fashion started last summer when she found the perfect yellow raincoat for the bronze-colored bird.

Hight found more chicken couture from flea markets and her niece's American Girl doll clothes. She dressed the bird at night, sneaking into the darkness to change its clothes. The Hights have letters, birthday cards, holiday cards and drawings of The Chicken from children and neighbors.

"Since The Chicken has been stolen, all of Raleigh has been sad," said Molly Smerko, 10, of Raleigh, who often visited the bird.

Ruth Zhivkovich, a 9-year-old from Chapel Hill, sent an e-mail message to The News & Observer: "We almost cried ... if I found out who stole the chicken, I'd tell the parents and the person who stole it would be grounded for a year!"

This weekend, The Chicken's replacement -- a ceramic flamingo wearing a pink gingham dress -- may debut.

"If The Chicken comes back, he will resume his place of prominence," Steve Hight said.

Staff writer Madison Park can be reached at (919) 812-0830 or mpark@newsobserver.com.

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