Marc Klein was walking his dog, Cocoa, last Wednesday morning in Central Park when he spotted something rustling in the fallen leaves near the park’s entrance at West 97th Street.
It was a feathered creature, but not one of the more commonly seen wild birds in the park. This was a chicken, a handsome, reddish bird that Mr. Klein quickly scooped up because some other dogs nearby seemed a bit too interested in the animal for its safety.
“You don’t really see chickens in Central Park,” said Mr. Klein, 49. “I thought the chicken might be someone’s pet, because it allowed me to get real close. But now I’m holding this bird, and I can’t just go and put it down, because these dogs might eat it.”
So he carried both Cocoa and the chicken home to his high-rise apartment on 97th Street, drawing a stare from his doorman, and another from his wife, Laura.
Unable to immediately reach animal rescue groups, Mr. Klein, an advertising creative director, put the chicken out on his terrace, 16 stories up, and rushed to finish a presentation that was overdue.
His daughter, Alexandra, 18, told him via Facebook from her boarding school that the chicken could stay in her empty bedroom, but prospects of keeping the bird grew slimmer, as it began clucking louder and louder outside. So Mr. Klein printed up some spiffy looking fliers bearing his phone number and the chicken’s photo.
He rushed out to post them, and soon the calls were pouring in. Two were from reporters, including this one, and one was from a woman who said her friend had lost a pet rooster. Mr. Klein informed her that his new tenant was a hen.
“Another call was from a bunch of guys laughing the whole time and asking if they could get the bird fried,” he said. There was also the woman who called just to tell him about the time she and a boyfriend had their first kiss interrupted in Central Park by an ownerless chicken wearing a leash, which they took to a local police precinct.
No call came from anyone who proved to be the chicken’s owner, but there was the park ranger who suggested that Mr. Klein try the Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center in a storefront on Columbus Avenue not far from his home. By dinnertime – 12 hours after finding the bird – he and the chicken were headed there in a yellow cab.
The chicken was a seven-pound Orpington, said Rita McMahon, co-founder and director of the fund, whose staff named the chicken Freya. They began ridding Freya of some internal parasites, including roundworm, and then put her on a diet of cracked corn and seed and mealworms.
“In a few days, she’ll be Superbird,” said Ms. McMahon, who a dozen years ago began taking in rescued birds at her apartment nearby. After rescuing thousands of birds , she opened the fund in the storefront in 2012.
Freya, she speculated, could have been rescued from a live poultry store by some well-intentioned bird lover seeking to save her from the slaughterer’s knife.
“People think they’ll put the chicken in the park and it will be fine,” Ms. McMahon said. “But this is not a bird that’s going to make it on the streets of New York.”
Freya was now sharing living space with other rescued birds, including a Virginia Rail that had smashed into a Midtown office building while migrating, and a mockingbird brought in from the Bronx with bad legs. There was a woodcock with a head injury, and a Coturnix quail that might have escaped while being delivered to a Japanese restaurant to become a dinner special.
There were white king pigeons dumped at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, and a red belly woodpecker with injuries to its legs and head. One worker was on the ground straddling a swan to feed the bird, which had a jaw infection.
After showing off the birds, Ms. McMahon turned to Freya, now strutting around the group’s basement dormitory. She would be taken in by Zeze, a Brazilian-born florist who has a shop on the Upper East Side and an expansive estate in Rensselaer County in upstate New York where he provides sanctuary for many birds rescued from the city.
Updated on the chicken’s odyssey, Mr. Klein said he was happy he decided to pluck her from the wilds of Central Park — but now he had another problem.
“Now my wife will never let me walk the dog again,” he said. “She’s worried I’ll come home with another chicken.”
CHARLIE ROSE: And this story, the New York Times looks at the search for the owner of a chicken. The bird was found in New York Central Park last week by a man walking his dog. He brought the chicken to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. They found someone in upstate New York who will keep the chicken in his bird sanctuary.
NORAH O`DONNELL: And can I just share with our audience that you said to me
this morning, this is my favorite story--
CHARLIE ROSE: It was. Yeah.
NORAH O`DONNELL: --in the paper today.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. Because he was going to a place where all wild birds are kept, whatever that is.
NORAH O`DONNELL: Some sort of bird sanctuary--
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. Exactly.
NORAH O`DONNELL: --for this chicken.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly.
NORAH O`DONNELL: All right.