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A chicken dies at the Cook Co. jail — and rumors fly about possible culprit

Inmates Cook County Jail work chicken coop. | Courtesy ABC7

Inmates at Cook County Jail work in the chicken coop. | Courtesy ABC7

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Updated: October 7, 2013 1:29PM

There have been murders before in the Cook County Jail — but those victims were never this particular kind of jailbird.

On July 19, a hen was found dead in a chicken coop built at the jail as part of a job-training program. The chicken was found disemboweled and was missing feathers.

Almost two months later, rumors continue to swirl at the Cook County courthouse at 26th and California that a person may have sexually assaulted the chicken.

But Sheriff Tom Dart said there’s no evidence of that — or even that a human killed the chicken. Guards and inmates with access to the chicken coop have been interviewed and none shed any light on how the hen died, Dart said.

“There is no evidence of a sick person doing this,” he said. “The most likely explanation is that it was killed by another animal, most likely a rat.”

The chicken’s death highlights an unconventional training program Dart has created for non-violent inmates who also tend a 60,000-square-foot garden and take care of a fish farm.

The chicken coop was completed in June with inmate labor, and about 30 chickens arrived the next month.

About 60-dozen eggs have been sold at the farmer’s market on Daley Plaza and at a food co-op, Dart said.

The vegetables are sold at restaurants across Chicago. Dart said he recently dined at Trattoria 10, an upscale eatery in the Loop, and was served a beet salad made from the jail’s produce. No tilapia have been harvested yet from the fish farm, he said.

Revenue from the garden and eggs are plowed back into the programs, which teach the inmates basic skills ranging from packaging products to hygiene, Dart said.

“This is better than them sitting in front of a TV set doing nothing,” he said, adding that the persistent rumors about the chicken’s death are “frustrating to me.”

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