THREE boys, all aged under 10, were detained by police after a ‘horrific’ attack on two poultry pens.
One of the children killed a hen after attacking it with a stick and bricks, before leaving a goose sitting on a nest of eggs terrified and covered in blood, as the others watched.
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Police said the attack on Tockholes Road allotments in Darwen also saw more than a dozen ready-to-hatch eggs smashed.
The boys, understood to be aged eight and nine and below the age of criminal responsibility, broke into the garden and headed for the specially designed sheds and runs which are home to more than 20 tame birds.
Police said the children were apprehended after trying to return to the scene of their ‘carnage’ the following day and have been referred to a specialist team of child behaviour experts.
Inspectors from the RSPCA, who were called to the incident, are now to arrange animal welfare talks at nearby schools.
Keith Snoddon, who keeps the birds as pets, said: “This was a horrific attack.
“It was sheer carnage.”
Councillor Paul Browne, who represents Darwen, said: “This was a disgusting, disgraceful and horrific attack on defenceless birds.”
During the incident on Sunday afternoon, police said the group terrified several other birds and smashed more than 15 hens, duck and goose eggs, some close to hatching.
Paint was also poured into water dishes left for the birds.
After the attack was reported to police on Monday, a volunteer at the poultry refuge on the allotment in Sudell spotted the three children coming back and scared them off.
The volunteer then went with with PC Andy Crow on a tour of the area to find the gang and they were detained.
Sgt Dave Sherrington, from Darwen neighbourhood police, said the three children all under 10, were then questioned and one admitted the attacks and the other two confessed to standing by watching the assault on the birds.
He said they had now been referred to a specialist team involving social workers, police, probation officers and child behaviour experts as they were under the age of criminal responsibility, which starts at 10.
Mr Snoddon, 57, of Greenway Street, said: “We were told the culprits were just eight and nine.
“I cannot believe they could to this disgraceful thing and then come back a second time.
“What will they do next?
“A hen was killed after being hit with a three inch by three inch stick and several large bricks.
“The goose, which would not move because she was defending her eggs, was then attacked in the same way.
“She was tortured and terrorised and left traumatised covered in blood.
“These are very tame, mainly rescued birds including former battery hens, and this would have been a terrifying stressful experience.
“They smashed more than 15 duck, hen and goose eggs and even poisoned the water dishes with paint.”
Sudell town councillor Paul Browne said: “I am shocked.
“I cannot believe children so young were involved.
“If they can do this at that age, I dread to think what they might to when they get older.”
Sgt Sherrington said: “The offenders entered an allotment causing damage by throwing and smashing things.
“One hen appears to have been killed and items were thrown at a roosting goose, injuring it and causing it distress.
“Various eggs were also smashed.
“PC Crow identified and detained three young lads on Monday with the help of a witness.
“They were all under ten, the age of criminal responsibility.
“One lad confessed to the attacks and the other two admitted standing by watching.
“This is worrying and disturbing incident and all three have been referred to a special multi-agency team to try and change their behaviour to prevent any repeat of this type of offending.
“We are keen on restorative justice and for them to return and apologise to the owner so they realise the seriousness of what they have done.”
RSPCA Inspector Paul Heaton, who attended the allotment on Sunday to check the health of the remaining birds, said: “It was a very disturbing incident.
“In view of the age of those involved, I shall be arranging a series of animal welfare talks with schools and other organisations in Darwen.”
Cllr Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s children’s services boss, said: “Any sort of disturbing incident involving children which we become aware of is referred to a special Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub.
“This has teams of social workers, police, probation and education services and child behaviour experts that work with young people to identify and address any issues of concern.”