Police in Atwater, Minn., had warned a family that they weren't allowed to keep chickens. Then in August, Police Chief Trevor Berger took things into his own hands -- stopping by their home and beheading one of the hens with a shovel.

"I came home to find the chicken’s head lying in front of its coop," Ashley Turnbull said Tuesday.

Turnbull said the small red hen was like a puppy to her 5-year-old son, Phoenix. The boy got several hens and ducks as a birthday present, she said, and he likes to load them into a red wagon, bringing them to the sand box and the park. "They’re his babies," she said.

Turnbull said she knows she's in violation of the city's ordinance; an officer had stopped by earlier in August to warn her. But she doesn't believe that Berger handled the situation appropriately. She recently filed a formal complaint with the city, which is in central Minnesota.

Berger told the West Central Tribune, which first reported this story, that the killing was justified:

Berger said he was simply enforcing the city ordinance that has been on the books since 1960 and was responding to a “frustrated’ neighbor’s repeated complaints, including a report on Aug. 16 that one of Turnbull’s chickens was running loose in the residential area near the elementary school.

“I’m sorry it had to happen that way,” said Berger, adding that he didn’t intend to leave the severed chicken head in the yard to send a message to the homeowners. Berger said he thought the head was still attached to the chicken when he carried the carcass away.

“It’s against city ordinance for a chicken to be in the city and running around in people’s yards,” he said.

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