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Chickenman to retire

PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:52 01 August 2010

THE man who has looked after the birds on the famous "chicken roundabout" near Bungay for 21 years is giving up, saying he can no longer bear to see the birds being maltreated.

THE man who has looked after the birds on the famous “chicken roundabout” near Bungay for 21 years is giving up, saying he can no longer bear to see the birds being maltreated.

“Chicken man” Gordon Knowles said that the number of birds, which have been disappearing rapidly over the last couple of years, had now dropped to just seven, because of people taking them.

He said at its peak there were more than 300 birds living on and around the roundabout, and that even just two years ago there were 160.

“We made a decision last week,” he said. “It's breaking my heart to have to pack it in. I feel very upset about it. They're pals of mine - I call them pals.”

He said he and his helpers were trying to get the last few birds re-housed, adding: “We can't leave them like that.”

He appealed for people not to leave chickens at the junction as they have in the past. “People mustn't dump any more chickens there because there won't be anyone to look after them. The remaining ones I will look after until they're all gone.”

Mr Knowles said the birds' behaviour showed that they had been on the receiving end of cruelty, and that people had been taking them either because they took offence at the sound or sight of them, or for food.

“It's like a morgue,” he said. “I can hear them in the trees but they are afraid to come out - even for me.”

He said: “We've found them with broken legs and their heads smashed in from trying to fight people off.”

He added: “We know they are local people who have been getting them off the roundabout. That's got to be someone who lives nearby. They know when to go - when there's no-one about. We know all these things but we can't do anything about it.”

He said that although the RSPCA had been very supportive, such help had not been forthcoming from other authorities.

Over the years the chickens' fame has led to the junction at Ditchingham, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border becoming known locally as the “chicken roundabout”. It is believed the birds escaped from nearby allotments more than 50 years ago and have lived off grain from nearby maltings ever since.

Mr Knowles said: “It's a shame - people love them. I want to thank all the lovely people who have helped. I'm very, very sorry to have to do this but I'm not going to have the chickens ill-treated.”

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