- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Della Munnich was strolling through her downtown Coeur d’Alene neighborhood earlier this year when she saw something a little out of the ordinary.

“I was walking down this alley and I thought, ‘Is that? … No, it can’t be. It’s a chicken in a tree,’” she said on a recent afternoon. “I came home and I told my husband, ‘There is a chicken living in a tree.’”

As an animal advocate, Munnich was delighted to see the chicken on her neighborhood wanderings. It would hop down from a low-hanging pine branch to greet her or accept a gift of tasty chicken feed, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported (https://bit.ly/28JenXW).

Then one day, Munnich witnessed something that made her animal-loving heart melt.

“This little girl was with the chicken,” she said. “She would be holding it and then it would go back to the tree periodically, then it would follow her around. Then it would fly up to the window sill on the house, just watching her.”

The chicken has adopted 8-year-old Nevaeh Laskey as her best friend, and for Nevaeh, the feeling is mutual.

Nevaeh and her family moved into their house this spring, and on the property is the chicken’s favorite roosting tree. It wasn’t long before the chicken and the child struck up a friendship.

“I like that she lets me hold her,” a shy Nevaeh said before picking up the chicken and hugging her.

Miss Henny Penny, as Nevaeh has named her, is an orange-brown Americana chicken with a mysterious past. No one is quite sure when she started roosting in the tree or where she came from. They only know that the hen and the little girl are the best of pals.

“Nevaeh will come out here and picnic and the chicken will come right up and take a bite off Nevaeh’s sandwich and Nevaeh will take a bite,” said Nevaeh’s mom, Sam Couch. “They’ll just go back and forth.”

Couch said they have researched Miss Henny Penny’s breed and found Americanas to be among some of the most docile birds. The easy-going hen gets along with other neighborhood critters, such as the crows and squirrels, and does well with Couch’s other children and pets.

“It’s so weird, it’s like the calmest personality of a pet. The baby goes right next to it. My son is so hyper and it even tolerates him,” she said. “The chicken is the best pet. It makes you want like 10 of them.”

Miss Henny Penny has quite the personality. When she lays her one egg a day, she’ll sometimes fly through an open window on the back of the house and leave it as a present behind the back door. Couch said Americanas are “known for being thieves, like sneaky, when they want to get into stuff. And she does.”

The chicken has ruffled some feathers by digging in neighbors’ yards, so the family got a coop to keep her contained.

“She started crossing the street, which is funny, the chicken crossing the road,” Couch said with a laugh. “She can be out running around all that she wants but whenever we’re done watching her, we have to put her in there.”

Despite the hen’s more mischievous side, her fondness for the little girl is evident.

“One day I woke up and she was on the back of my pillow,” Nevaeh said, grinning. “She woke me up. My dad opened the door because it was hot and so she came in, and when I woke up she was on the back of my pillow.”

“She’s a funny chicken, it’s just hilarious,” Couch said. “She’s a sweet chicken.”

Couch said her daughter is a very caring and nurturing person, as well as an animal lover.

“Anything she feels like she can take care of she’s just really motherly to,” she said. “If she could have every animal in the world, she would.”

Munnich, who visits Nevaeh and her family often, said Couch has done a really good job by teaching her children to be kind and compassionate.

“With everything that’s going on in the world, we need more people like that,” she said. “We need little girls like that to grow up and have that empathy and that love for nature and animals because it carries on to people.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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