Death Before Breakfast

Vicki Doudera here, with a classic locked door puzzle that happened last week, right here in Camden. So close to home that I was still in my p.j.’s when I discovered the body.

I will probably never know the whole story, but let me tell you what I do know.

At approximately six a.m., I trudged across the dewy lawn of my backyard and unlocked a small door. It swung open to reveal a scene that made me exhale in horror.

Penny lay still on some cedar shavings, her eyes closed. A few of her roommates milled nervously around her body, while others peered down from their vantage point high in the corner. I asked what had happened, but no one was talking. Finally I released the seven roommates (or should I say, suspects?) into a holding pen and turned my attention to the corpse.

My first thought was that an intruder had forced his way into the small structure. Glancing at the exits, I saw no sign of forced entry, and all windows were closed.

I then examined Penny for bruising or signs of blood. She looked untouched, her feathers golden in the early morning light.

In fact, she looked so good that I lay my hand on her breast, looking for a heartbeat. Nothing – and yet her body was still warm. Whatever had happened to this poor chick had taken place only minutes before I arrived.

Sitting back on my haunches, I tried to figure out why she’d died. Was she pushed off the perch?  Was this a case of murder most fowl?

Was it merely a misstep? Had Penny plunged to her death accidentally before the other hens’ horrified eyes?

Or was Penny simply sick and tired of being cooped up in her luxurious hen house? Had she

made the fateful decision to end it all on that sunny summer morning?

Here’s the bigger question, and one I know what you’re all wondering — did I eat her for dinner?

I did not. 

Instead,  I trudged back across the lawn in search of a spade, dug a hole amongst some hostas, and gave poor Penny a proper pet burial. She was a good chicken, and a reliable layer, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed roasting her (not to mention plucking all those feathers.)

I have a theory as to what happened. What about you? Care to solve the Case of the Cold Chicken with me?

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6 Responses to Death Before Breakfast

  1. J Welling says:

    First, sorry about the pet. Sure she ran egg, inc. but still. Sorry.

    Second, I am unnaturally attracted to stories of backyard chickens. The whole bit of chickens makes me giggle a little. Picture the banker in his best blacks rising early and tending to his own breakfast as wifey-poo suffers from “nite-capitis.”

    There he is near the coup which is as cute as yours, reaching into the nest to raid the morning when boom…. Pot pie explosion.

    Now that is a crime of substance. I just cannot manage to get the story tone correct all the way through (characters need to be as precisely constructed as the ornamented coup, really). Such a great place for crime: early morning, feathers, the juxtaposition of someone who has no agrarian theme with death at a coup.

    You have more than a little of the magic here. Please, consider the foul and fowl. So few stories have adequate humor these days. Chickens add laughter.

    Again, the little beasties are horribly prone to our attachment. So sorry.

  2. karla says:

    Vicki, Sorry for your loss.
    Just last week I picked up a used bookstore copy of ‘Enjoying Maine’ by Bill Caldwell. He recalled an incident in the 1950’s when a sonic boom so panicked the chickens, they piled up and smothered themselves. Could it have been fireworks? (Do you do that before breakfast?) OR…my dental hygienist, who also raises chickens, said that when a chicken’s breast gets too large, the bird topples and can’t get up.
    As a lover of walking, clucking, real live chickens, I’m very curious to know your theory!

  3. Jackie King says:

    Turkey-Lurkey is the villain. The evening before, just before Penny settled down for bedtime, he whispered something to her. The scuttlebutt says it was unbelievably cruel. Something about none of her eggs every becoming baby chicks, and because of that she was a complete failure. The next morning he was going to tell the World of Feathers, everyone’s favorite magazine, and she would be the laughing stock of the hen house.

    You really need to grill Turkey-Lurkey!

  4. Barb Ross says:

    At last, a true locked room mystery! And nobody’s talking, er, clucking.

  5. Sarah Graves says:

    So sorry about Penny. But as for the mystery, I fear she may have simply eggspired.

  6. John Clark says:

    Might it be that she finally succumbed to her delusion that she was really a frog prince and simply croaked?

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