FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Denise Darnell of Fairfield was startled while feeding her eight chickens Tuesday afternoon by a pigeon that suddenly flew into the pen — and knew that she needed to do some detective work.
"When the pigeon flew in, my rooster ran to attack it, but thankfully the pigeon managed to fly up to sit on the fence," said Darnell, who -- along with her husband Simon and two sons -- also owns two cats.
"I noticed the pigeon was wearing one green and one red ankle tag, and knew he must belong to someone," she said. "He was very tame and let me approach him and took some corn out of my hand."
The pigeon followed Darnell into the garage and "in order to keep him safe, using a fishing net, I gently picked him up and placed him into a cat carrier, which I kept in the garage.
"When my son arrived home, I had him read the code off the red ankle tag," she said.
When Darnell googled the code, she learned the pigeon belonged to the World Trade Center Memorial Club.
She located the club's contact person, who looked up the bird's serial number and discovered his owner is Jack Olsen from Rumson, N.J.
When Darnell called Olsen, he told her that the bird was flying in the Marty McGinnis pigeon race on Sept. 24 and had been released from New Stanton, Pa.
"Jack told me it is a 300-mile race, which should take the birds about six hours to return home," she said. "However, along the way, the birds encountered fog and a strong east wind, blowing many of them off-course.
"About 65 percent of the birds returned within six hours, and about 90 percent of them had returned within nine hours," she said. "Jack said he'd never had a pigeon been blown so far off course."
Darnell said she noticed the pigeon is missing a couple of tail feathers, "and Jack said he most likely had a hawk encounter," she said.
The pigeon was due to race in the World Trade Center Memorial Pigeon Race on Oct. 7, but probably won't after all due to the recent mishap.
Darnell, who moved in 2010 to Fairfield from Guildford, England, said she has always loved chickens. "My former co-workers at William Raveis in Southport nicknamed me the 'Chicken Lady," she said.
"I love having fresh eggs every day. I haven't had to buy eggs in a grocery store in two years," she said.
All Darnell's chickens -- and her one rooster -- have names that begin with the letter "P:" Penny, Pumpkin, Poppy, Phoebe, Pinky, Perky, Princess and Pippa, and her rooster, Peter.
"Not only does each chicken look different, but I can tell which chicken laid which eggs," she said.
Olsen is making the two-hour trip from the Jersey Shore to Darnell's house to collect his bird.
Darnell said Olsen is so happy she found his pigeon that he plans to name it after her. "If it's a boy, he will name it Dennis, or Denise if it's a girl," she chuckled.
For more information on the World Trade Center Memorial Race, click here .
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