Game of chicken ends in arrest

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The Independent Online
Played out almost daily in shopping malls and back alleys across America, it is the kind of situation every American police officer dreads: a stand-off with a suspected felon who, in a last desperate attempt at self-pre-servation, seizes a hostage and threatens instant murder unless the law backs off.

In Uniondale, Long Island, however, the script was less The Taking of Pelham 123 and more Woody Allen or the Goodies. "Stop right there or the rooster gets it," might have been the demand of Roderick Baker, as police detectives and state sanitation officials arrived at his quiet suburban home.

The fuzz were chasing Mr Baker not because he was accused of any dramatic sort of crime. Rather, his neighbours had simply complained about the chickens in his backyard. The birds were malodorous and noisy and were threatening the otherwise cosy atmosphere of the street, they said.

But Mr Baker, 70, a self-professed antiques dealer, did not take kindly to the intrusion. Feathers flew (and more) as he vowed to kill one bird every minute until the fuzz went away. The authorities refused to comply and, you might say, a bloody game of chicken ensued. Before Mr Baker was finally rushed by the startled officers, three minutes ticked by and three birds met an untimely end.

More shocked than anyone by the brouhaha were the neighbours, who had filed the police complaint in the first place. "He is such a quiet man," said Angela Avila, who lives next door. "Nobody liked the chickens running around, but he was always very polite. You wouldn't expect this".

Bird lovers were also less than delighted by the episode, even if they considered it was Mr Baker who had behaved in a cock-eyed fashion, not the police. "He just went whack," said Larry Wallach of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after the drama.

Once inside, the police found no fewer than 50 hens and roosters crammed into Mr Baker's small back garden, which was also filled with other assorted urban junk.

Mr Baker, meanwhile, was sent to the coop. The precise charges against him are not yet known. Fowl play in the first degree might be appropriate.