Teens Who Killed Birds to Study Animal Feelings

Seven teenagers who beheaded two chickens because they were curious whether they would run around with their heads cut off will soon learn a lot more about the birds.

A judge ordered the five boys and two girls — ages 17 to 19 — to clean chicken coops and read a book about animals' feelings as part of their sentence.

In September 2003, the seven teens went to a Wal-Mart (search) and bought machetes, kitchen knives and a hatchet, then drove to a chicken farm and stole eight chickens. They beheaded two chickens, videotaping the carnage before the homeowner caught them.

The chickens "sort of ran a very short distance and they sort of flopped over," said defense attorney Garland Moore, who attributed the teens' behavior to youthful curiosity.

The teens were convicted of animal cruelty charges.

Judge John R. Turner on Friday instructed them to read a book about animal cruelty and turn in a report on it. They were also ordered to perform community service hours cleaning chicken houses.

Moore criticized the state for initially charging the teens with the deaths of eight chickens, not two, on the premise the other six died because of the stress of witnessing the beheadings.

"Had the state pressed the issue, I was prepared to ask for an autopsy on the six chickens to determine if they actually died from stress," he quipped.